This weekend I went to a funeral for a lovely woman whose children I knew from school. When my alarm clock went off at what for me was an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning, I wanted nothing more than to snuggle deeper into the mound of blankets and spend my Saturday with a steaming cup of coffee, reading the paper with no deadlines or appointments or obligations.
As tempting as it was, a phrase that caught my attention a few years ago popped into my head. Always go to the funeral.
Why you may ask? It was the same question I asked when I first saw the story. The author told a story about a teacher from grade school who had passed away; a teacher who had meant so much to her back then, but one she hadn’t seen since. The funeral was on a busy Wednesday at work and because the service was hours away, attending would mean taking an entire day off work and paying the price for that absence with lots of overtime in the coming days. She picked up the phone to call her father to let him know she wouldn’t be able to come home for the funeral only to have her father tell her, “you always go to the funeral.”
Her father’s words were brief and without further explanation, but when your father tells you something you do it and so she drove for hours, arriving just in time to slip into the pew next to her family. Her father gave her a knowing nod of the head before opening his hymn book as they rose in song. As she stood beside him, she saw what she hadn’t seen when she rushed in….a nearly empty church. It seems she hadn’t been the only one who thought she was too busy to attend and catching the eye of the grieving family, she was rewarded with a shy smile from the widower.
As the sparse crowd gathered in the church basement for the obligatory ham sandwiches and potato salad, she made her way to the family intending to offer her personal condolences and share how much their loved one had meant to her as a young girl. Before she could even open her mouth, the teacher’s husband rose from the table to envelope her in a strong hug. “We’re so glad you came,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Her students meant everything to her and she would have loved that you were here.”
They exchanged a few more words before the author returned to her own family. Her father, without looking at her, whispered in her ear…”That’s why you always go to the funeral.”
That story resonated with me so strongly that I have never since missed a funeral. I believe that in this busy life we lead, the most important thing to do is to be there for those who have touched our lives. Whether it is the person who has passed or the family they left behind, taking the time and making the effort to show you care and that they were important to you is what matters. You can send a card or a spray of flowers, but those will be quickly forgotten. It’s seeing the concern and caring on your face, feeling the warmth of your body as you exchange hugs, or telling a story about their loved one they had never heard before that the family will remember and thank you for.
Always go to the funeral. A life lesson for when a life is lost.
Be well my friends….