Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Funerals, Friends, and Audrey Hepburn

I have a love hate relationship with funerals. 

I sing at funerals.  As often as my schedule lets me.  And, at every funeral I sing, I cry, whether I know the person or not.  Today, I sang at a funeral.  While I knew who the gentleman was, my dear friends, dad, I didn't know him well.

I often wonder what goes through peoples minds during a funeral.  Not the family of the deceased, but the people who came to support their friend or family member.  Me?  I tend to think of lots of things.  I think about my own funeral.  If the reading that was done during this funeral I would like for mine.  I think of who I want to do what.  Yes, I know, I have control issues.  I do not want "May the Angels Lead You into Paradise" sung at my funeral!  While it's a pretty song, it's WAY overdone, in my honest opinion.  I would prefer Pie Jesus.  Such an amazing song! 

Then, after I think about my own funeral, I think about the last person close to me who passed away.  In this case it was my Mema a year ago.  When I see the family walk up at the beginning of the Mass, I remember walking behind Mom's (George's) coffin.  I tend to look at the family.  I know that Fr. Tim is talking to them, will they be able to hear and remember what he's saying?  Will they remember what was said at the Eulogy (fyi, my favorite part of funerals!).  Then, I remember back to Mom's funeral.  I remember Father said the Mom 'lived the beatitudes'.  I don't remember much from the eulogy done by a family friend, but I remember smiling and that he described Mom very well.  So, I think that my friend and her family absorbed what they need to help them cope through the coming trials of life without their loved one.

As I said above, I like to watch the family.  I saw grief, sure, but I saw pure love.  Pure amazing love.  From a Dad consoling his son at the loss of his grandfather.  I saw pure love as the grandchildren walked back to get the gifts to present at the altar and one of the older grandchildren put his arm around a grandchild just a little younger than him.  I watched how one of the grandchildren altar served.  I marveled at just how hard that had to be for him, yet how beautiful that he was able to serve and be a part of something so very special.  I saw husbands consoling wives.  I saw a son consoling his mother and sister while grieving himself.  I saw a beautiful, strong, family bond.  I saw Jesus.

You're probably scratching your head wondering why the eulogy is my favorite part of a funeral mass, and I'll tell you.  The eulogy is the part of the mass where someone gets up to talk about the deceased.  Sometimes, more than one person.  And, it's all good stuff.  I mean, have you guys ever been to a funeral where the person gets up and says "Man, that Mike, what a schmuck, huh!?  He was an alcoholic who couldn't even walk straight when he was sober!"  No, people say nice things.  Deacon Ron gave a most beautiful eulogy of my friends dad today.  Her dad passed along messages through Deacon Ron.  How cool is that!  And, to see Deacon Ron so stoic as he talked so lovingly about his friend that he just lost was amazing.  I love the eulogy because it's a chance to share with everyone how great the deceased was.  Even if they had problems, they were loved.  There's always something nice to say about everyone, even if you have to dig a little deeper sometimes.  And, the eulogy reminds us that are left that a) we are human, as we all like to forget sometimes, b) that life is fleeting, c) that we have work to do, and d) that we are loved.  I take something away from each funeral I attend with the intentions of working on that myself, from living the beatitudes, to saying a rosary everyday, to being a better person.  And, as usual, I constantly fall short.  And, you know what?  That's okay.  I'm human.

Now, why I hate funerals.

Well, first is the obvious, someone died.  That means someone is grieving.  Someone lost someone so dear to them.  As I've said before, one of my favorite things about me is my least favorite thing about me, my heart.  It feels *everything*, including empathy.  For those of you who don't know what that is, empathy is your pain, I feel, in my heart.  Secondly, I dislike funerals b/c I know how my family works.  I have come from a big family with aunts and uncles and cousins all of which we're not close to for one reason or another.  So, when someone passes, there won't be the closeness and the Jesus of it all and with that, I feel sad.  Now, on George's side, I am exceptionally close to his dad.  He is the dad that I've always wanted.  He loves me, warts and all.  True, unconditional, love.  When he goes, I'll be a basket case.  Ditto when my mom goes.  Funny thing...I've always said that when Mema passed away I'd have to be put in the nut house because I'll go crazy.  And, after she did, it took a long time for me to feel semi normal.  Funerals and the grief and my heart, take me right back to Mema's death and I struggle for just a little bit.

Why then, do I continue to sing at funerals if I cry and get a little depressed all over again?  Because whether it's the deceased, a family member or friend, or someone singing in the choir, everyone needs to feel loved.  And, like Audry Hepburn says ""I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it."

Until next time,
Pray for the repose of the soul of my friends Dad and for all those grieving.


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