Funerals are for the living - not the dead. They are for those gathered around the grave. It is a time to reflect on the deceased, but it is mostly for those that are reconnecting around the event. Reunion is more the theme than departure. We will each take our turn being the reason people gather. They will talk about us a little, but for the most part they will laugh and greet people they have not seen for years. That makes for a pretty strange paradox. Your sad demise brings people together in joy.
A good funeral brings an end to various chapters in the lives of the individuals that are at the graveside. There is a lot of value in that. People breathe a sigh of relief when the final prayer is said. They return to visiting and then depart gracefully until all that is left is the casket and the cemetery workers. That makes for an interesting moving symbol. Life goes on. Do not ever forget that. It does not revolve around any of us.
That one fact alone stimulates a healthy humility. We may be the center of our lives, but we are not the center of life itself. What follows us temporarily are memories.
After a while, the flowers fade, the grass grows over the fresh dirt, and life - with all of its joys and heartaches - goes on. A lot of things are dropped - other than the pine box into six feet of earth. There we leave our disappointments and judgments. We turn our attention to the tasks that beckon us, and we go back to our lives. The funeral events we attend throughout our lives are there for our perspective. Politics, the economy, the celebrities of the day are seldom brought up. They may be buried sooner than the next person to die in your family or among your circle of friends. Nothing beats looking at yesterday's newspaper to realize the shallow grave of "current events."
"They rest from their labors..." as the scripture says and as the requiem masses chant. This echoes in my mind on a daily basis. I once saw a photo of a set of steps leading into the library of a great writer. Welded on each metal step in sequence are the words: "You Will Have Plenty Of Time To Rest When You Are Six Feet Under." That is one of my mottos of life. Time frittered away cannot be redeemed. Live now. All you have is the moment. Make it count!