Grief, Joy, and Perspective

I’ve now attended two funerals this spring, as two dear friends have each lost a parent. It’s heart-wrenching to see them go through the pain of loss, and to know the struggles their loved ones faced as they neared the end. If you’re like me, you wish you could do something, wish you could help take the burden from them, but you can’t. All you can do is be there for them.

And that’s no easy task, either.

As I took a seat in the first funeral, I found myself thinking back to when my father-in-law passed. Admittedly, I was an emotional mess that day, and was so grateful when my young niece crawled into my lap and snuggled in for the duration of the service. She was like my own personal living, breathing teddy bear, there to cling to when the sobbing kicked in. (Sorry, Claire Bear, I know you got a little soggy that day.)

Might be the longest I’ve ever seen her sit still, come to think of it. But, I digress…

Yesterday’s funeral was different as night and day from the one last month. One church was tiny and traditional, the other vast and contemporary. One group gathered was aged, their attendance calm and quiet, the other group younger, the tears and pain more vocal. Yet each served as a reminder to this truth:

Funerals are hard.

I don’t care how well you knew the person, or if you even knew them at all. Funerals are just hard. But in the midst of the grief, of the crying and/or struggling not to cry, there’s a story unraveling in each service. Hopefully, of a life well lived, a family member well and truly loved. One of past joys, and an eternity of them waiting for us.

It’s those stories that offer us peace…and perspective.

Every journey is different, every life uniquely lived. But it’s how those individuals lived their lives that sets an example for the rest of us. After all, actions do speak louder than words.

So as I sat in the service yesterday, in complete awe of the woman we were honoring, I found myself wondering if I was living life right. If I was being the best mom I could be, the best friend or family member I could be. If I was consistently there for the people who needed me most. If my faith and trust in “the big plan” really ran as deep as I’d like to think it did.

Really, I don’t know.

But it’s that perspective, the pause a memorial service brings, that can help us slow down from the rat race of life and reassess. It’s a subtle reminder to be kind, to love those who love us and even those who don’t. To stay true to ourselves, to our morals, to the things we believe in.

To make our lives truly count and set the example for others, just like those who came before us did.

Not everything in life is easy, no one I’ve met ever promised it would be, but there’s always a lesson to be learned along the way. So keep learning, keep loving, and make the most of each day. How better a way to honor loved ones lost, than to do exactly that?


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