Bio Moment – Death

Last night, my husband and I attended a viewing for a friend’s father. We were nervous, as we always are at functions like this. Don’t we all want to say the right things… possibly something that matters and comforts? But you get up there, to the people who will miss the guest of honor most of all, and realize there are no words. You hug, you hold out your hands, and then move along.

The truth is that very little (if anything) will be remembered by those whose hearts are breaking.

It was lovely, as they often are these days, with photos everywhere, a video running with a soft background of Rod Stewart singing “Forever Young” and most everyone putting on a brave face. It was difficult and surreal, as it almost always is when the person of honor is silent in a casket.

I was one of those kids who had all my grandparents right through until I was 21 years old. The first funeral I attended was for my Grandfather – my dad’s father. It was awkward and icky and I had nothing to compare it to. What does one do? Cry, of course… except I didn’t DO THAT. Totally a story for another day – the crying thing.

I like that we do celebrations of life now… finding photos and videos and swapping stories about her lemon meringue pies (my Nana) or how fast she roared down the halls at the college in her wheelchair (my friend, Cynthia) or his homemade pizza Saturdays (my ex-husband, David) or how she sewed an entire wardrobe of Barbie clothes, including crocheting sweaters for Christmas (my grandmother).

Just a thought: We need to tell these stories while people are still alive. 

Losses come too often as we get older. This is not maudlin or cynical talk… it is truth. We know it’s what happens when someone’s body gives out. Many of us watched (most of us through Facebook) as a high school friend told us she was dying from COPD. Those who could, visited and called. Others played Words With Friends – often several games at once. We messaged. We watched. We prayed. And then one day she was gone. We know that it happens eventually to everyone. Just because we expect it, doesn’t mean we embrace it.

Death is a self-help area all its own encompassing the time before until long after through the grieving process. There are many books… and I will be sharing some in later posts. Today, I would like to share a post I wrote several years ago… as I believe it gives us some thoughts to cling to as we navigate the bumpy, scary, beautiful path to death and grieving.

I attended a funeral today… for an infant… a tiny little person who, before her first breath was taken, was swept up into heaven.

It is, of course, profoundly sad. I wasn’t sure I should go to the service. I wrestled with it. Would I be intruding? It is such a private time for a family. Up until the very last moments, my plan was not to go. But then something happened… and honestly, I can’t even tell you what it was… and I decided, yes, I should go. I am so glad I did!

I think we can all imagine how devastating this might be… a funeral for an aged or sick person who has lived a full life is difficult enough… but this? Surely this kind of pain must be among the worst there is in life.

As so often happens – if you’re watching and listening – something was said that stopped time, if only for an instant. The minister stood behind the podium and made some opening remarks, prayed a lovely prayer and then began to speak. I have no idea what he said, honestly… not before… and not after… but this sentence, the one that stopped time… is clear:I want to you know, he said to the parents, your daughter existed.

On the one hand, you may think, duh, of course she existed. But you know, not everyone knows this, not even about people who lived a long time on earth. Sometimes, when people die, they disappear. They are erased. It is as if they never existed at all. Could there be anything worse than having no legacy at all?

Think of all the moments of your life… when you reached out… when you cried with… prayed for… held… listened… laughed… drove a friend to chemo… opened your home… held a door open… smiled at someone on the bus…gave a stranger $2 for a coffee… or put some food out for a stray cat. The teensy-tiniest moments to the biggest ones… all create this thing called legacy. And a legacy PROVES a person existed.

The little one who touched on earth for only a moment existed… and even though I never met her, she made a difference in my life through the words of the minister. I am here writing about it. That is her legacy.

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