January 28, 2011

Why I Like Funerals...

This morning, I'll be singing at the third memorial service I've attended in as many weeks. Some people might consider this depressing. But the truth is - I have a special place in my heart for singing at memorials. Maybe it's because I've attended a lot of memorials for people in my immediate family. It meant a lot to have friends around us at that time. I always pray my song and presence will do the same for family and friends who are grieving their loss.

Taking time to go to a memorial sends a strong message of love and support for those left behind. When a person you love dies, time seems to stand still for you while you try to come to terms with their being gone from your life. Sometimes you feel like life just goes on around you. When my mom, dad and brother died, it meant so much to me to see the people who cared enough to stop what they were doing to support us at a memorial in a time when we felt orphaned by our loss. People took time off work, family members drove for several days - to offer us love, strength and encouragement when we needed it.

Memorials can be times of healing and even laughter. In the midst of commemorating a person's life, we tend to remember the best of that person. Sometimes we choose to forgive wrongs we never righted while the person was alive. At memorials, we find humor lightens our hearts as we laugh over funny memories. Sometimes we learn something interesting or new about the person who died.

Most funerals and memorials aren't depressing experiences in the general sense. They do tend to remind us of our mortality. They remind us that we are connected to each other in a powerful way in the sense that though we may travel through this life together, we'll all face that moment of death - alone. Solidarity from others in the moments after a friend dies gives us hope that we too will be missed.

At memorials, as I sit quietly listening to the stories of the one who has moved past this physical plane of existence...I remember the importance of living life fully - now. I sing at all kinds of memorials. Some, thankfully, are for very old people - who've lived amazing, full lives. Some are for those who are not much older than me. Regretfully, some are for even younger people. None of us know the hour or the day we will be called beyond this life. A memorial tends to magnify the value of the present and remind us to make the most of this moment.

Memorials make my heart swell with gratitude for all the blessings in my life. I go home resolved to be more aware in every minute I am fortunate to be alive. I go home, infinitely thankful for the love of my life and my children. I go home determined to be the best version of myself - both for myself and my loved ones.

Of course, you don't have to go to a memorial to feel grateful for your blessings or to resolve to let gratitude guide your choices. Why not take a moment now and think of all the gifts in your life? What will you choose to do with this moment?

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