I went to another funeral today. At seventy-two years old, being a member of a church, whose membership seems like a chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), funerals are becoming more frequent. I don’t attend a lot of funerals, unlike Chris who is much more attentive to the social and ceremonial importance of being there for people who’ve lost loved ones. I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with funerals all my life. You might say that’s not unique; most people have that same sentiment about funerals. Maybe so, but my feeling about funerals is close in degree to how some people have a fear about dogs even when they’ve never spent any time around one.
You know how folk are known to say that funerals are the one event where only good things are said about an individual. This is said as if good things are falsely manufactured out of some obligation to social etiquette. This funeral I attended today wasn’t like that at all. It was for one of the deacons of our church. He was seventy-three. I won’t mention his name out of respect for his family. I can say without one bit of hesitation that every kind word that was spoken about this fellow was accurate. He was, as they say, the salt of the earth. His celebration of life was just that. There weren’t a lot of wet eyes from what I could see from a back pew, but there was an air of honor and respect. Everyone felt they were blessed to have known this fellow and that he would be sorely missed.
I find myself making comparisons to a lot of things these days. I’ve come to realize that’s probably something people do at a certain age. At seventy-two, I’ve had a wealth of experiences that have equipped me to make comparisons. One thing I’ve noticed is that funerals for older people don’t seem to be as emotionally devastating to those in attendance, outwardly anyway. I think it has to do with the fact that older people have been granted a good number of years to experience life. If they’ve been true to themselves and others, they’ve developed an inventory of wisdom that can be referred to by family and friends after they’re gone. It’s often said of older people that they have lived a good life. That’s not usually said of the young, whose passing is often viewed as tragic and untimely. We can’t escape the feeling that if they had been around a bit longer, they might have made untold contributions to society.
Yes, the older we get, the more opportunities to attend funerals come around. If I might be allowed to say it, the best funeral experiences are those that truly are celebrations of life, where laughter is heard in hush tones as words of commemoration are shared about the deceased. There were several moments of laughter at this funeral today. I left the sanctuary knowing more about this wonderful deacon, wonderful man, wonderful person of faith.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.