We’re going to a funeral this week. It’s not the first, but it’s a first in another way. It’s a big enough deal to provoke me to write one quick post on my “vacation.”
Last month we went to Don’s funeral. Don was the pastor at our church a long time ago, back in the seventies. He had a full and wonderful life, over eighty years of living. His funeral was a testament to his contributions to this world. That funeral felt like a celebration. We’ve been to a lot of those celebrations over the years. Parents. Grand parents. Uncles. All those old people. That seems like the way of the world. Old people die.
Eight years ago we buried a nephew. Barely twenty years old. Nobody expected this, he was too young. Who would have thought that a brain tumor caused his headache? A tragedy. Our friend Sonia was taken by breast cancer not that long ago. She left behind beautiful young children and a wonderful, grieving, husband. Not much to celebrate there; young people aren’t supposed to die. Most don’t. Another tragedy.
This week’s funeral is similar in one way, cancer was the proximate cause of death. But this wasn’t someone from our parent’s generation. This wasn’t the tragedy of a young life cut short. It was one of our own. My age. I went to college with her.
Could it be that another transition has started?
Not that long ago we were going to weddings, weddings of our friend’s children. Before that it was graduations; college or high school. Confirmations, baptisms, new babies. Before that we celebrated our friends weddings, or even when they turned twenty-one. Ah, those were grand celebrations.
Recently, we’ve been to a lot of retirement celebrations. Those are so much fun! People deciding to make a positive change in their lives, finally moving to the lake place they’ve been working on, taking that trip to Arizona that’s been in the plan, or just getting away from that damned job! Somehow I’d missed the fact that it’s just older folks who celebrate retirement. I wasn’t even thinking about what comes next.
About ten years ago I was in Jamestown visiting my friend Jim. He was in his mid-seventies then. We were sitting in his living room when I picked up the newspaper, saw the obituary page and recognized Jim’s barber. The funeral was that afternoon. “Aren’t you going?” I asked Jim. “Nope. Too many funerals. Too depressing.”
That conversation has stuck with me ever since. What’s the deal? Jim and Klevin were friends, had been for years. Why not go to the funeral?
Maybe funerals of contemporaries are different? Maybe it’s not the same celebration we made for our elders? Maybe we aren’t trying to ease the pain of tragedy? Maybe we aren’t celebrating an anticipated event? Maybe this is the last transition.
This one is personal. We didn’t just go to college together. Her husband and I worked together for years. We were at their wedding, celebrated births and the other life events. We were contemporaries. Now it’s her funeral. The memories are good. She was a wonderful person, with a great legacy left in her children and grand children. The family is now gathering for a celebration of life. The last celebration for Sheri.
The last celebration.
That’s starting to sink in. Last. Every other celebration had a following event. Weddings are followed by baby showers, births, then graduations, maybe another wedding. Now there’s nothing.
Mortality is staring me in the face. I’m starting to see why Jim didn’t want to go to “another” funeral. How many times do you want to be reminded of the fragility of life? The finality of that last celebration.
I’m still in the mood to celebrate the life of someone I’ve gone through life with. There are so many friends to celebrate with. Friends on the same journey. So many shared experiences. I’m ready to celebrate.
Soon enough it won’t be the first event of this cycle. Soon enough a select few will be talking about all those who have gone before. Too soon.
Let’s celebrate life today. Sheri had a good life; one worth remembering.
May my life be as worthwhile.