I attended a funeral this week. Not someone I was extremely close to, but I had known her for most of my life. I mainly went to support someone else who was attending and who needed a friend, but I also knew I’d encounter people I hadn’t seen in quite some time.
This is always interesting since I have so many folks who don’t know what to do with me since the death of my parents. Suffice it to say there are a lot of opinions about how I should have handled those situations, and very few who actually know what happened.
It is not unusual for our family to face people who don’t know what to do with us. We do live an unusual life and have made unusual choices which tends to separate us a bit. But, that subject is a whole ‘nother blog.
I struggle with funerals, but I’m not sure it’s in the typical way. Although death always gets me thinking, it doesn’t frighten me. I just think the whole tradition of a funeral is bizarre. Please, no need to write to me and tell me about the need for closure and about the grieving process. I’m just telling you my personal thoughts.
I watched the family have to meet and greet folks they haven’t seen in years, or perhaps never met. They were forced to be friendly and gracious while their faces could not hide the truth. They were in a fog of grief so painful that they could barely breathe. I doubt they will even remember who was there, save the guest book. All around me were whispers about who attended and who didn’t and about the soloist and about how the family seemed to be holding up. It just felt cruel to me to ask them to socialize and make small talk over ham sandwiches and punch.
In Jewish culture, when a family member dies, the mourners sit shiva. This is a period of time lasting seven days when the family, after the burial, remains in their home and allows the community to bless them. They are grieving and encouraged to do so. They don’t shower or shave and all mirrors are covered so that they can be in the grief state, and all visitors bring food and sit with them. No conversation is expected or made unless the mourner initiates it. They are simply surrounded by companionship and support. Similar customs continue for the next thirty days.
Here, in America, we have some pretty bizarre customs involving embalming, viewing the body, beautifully adorned caskets, rooms full of flowers. I have read some of what goes into making a body presentable. No, thank you. It is the most disgusting stuff I’ve ever heard in my life! As for those flowers, I bet most ladies would prefer to have that gorgeous bouquet while they could still enjoy it!
Before you think I’m here to tear apart every custom you may or may not appreciate, I will move on.
There is a woman I love deeply who is in what seems to be the final days of her life. None of us would say no to a miraculous recovery should God choose to do so, but for now, she is preparing to enter heaven.
She is a mighty woman of God who has loved and challenged everyone she knows to rise up and be exactly who God has called them to be. She is an out-of-the-box thinker who has inspired me to set aside any thoughts of winning popularity contests and step into whatever God has for me. If I can do that in my lifetime with half as much beauty and grace as she has exhibited, I will be pleased.
I got to visit with her yesterday, and as always she amazed me. As she faced a seemingly endless parade of people who love her, she smiled and handled all of it like a champion despite how I know she must have felt physically. She is talking about the things she wants to finish before going “home”. A quilt that is in process, her concern for how her son will handle this, her questions regarding the how’s and why’s of cancer, her unwavering trust that God knows exactly what He is doing even if none of it makes sense, and the beautiful field of purple flowers down the road. These are things she talks about.
I’ll tell you one thing I know. When she steps out of the body that has hindered her for so long into the arms of Jesus, she won’t care one little bit about the flowers I send.
As I type this, my beautiful Kyrsten brings me a handful of flowers she found in the backyard. This moment is what it’s all about. She is showing me her love in this very moment when it matters. That’s how I want to live.
In the end, I hope I’ve brought each of those I love a metaphorical fistful of flowers rather than a beautiful arrangement they’ll never see.
And as for me, I’ll be too busy slow-dancing with Jesus. No need to send flowers…
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