Sunday, September 2, 2012

Funeral Day

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend's mother. As we traveled the sunny roads on a dazzlingly bright, hot day, my 14-year-old and I pondered the paradox of death and life, of resurrection and funerals.  The service was lovely.  It was just the right combination of sentiment and sincerity; of sadness and joy.  An apt poem was read by my friend's husband-- "White Owl Flies" -- and there were hymns, a slide show and some very touching words by my sweet friend.  It was the perfect tribute to life and eternal life.

Yet my heart has been aching  -- a dull, burning sodden ache - for my friend in her loss.  As hard as yesterday was, I suspect there are many tough weeks and years ahead.  When the shock of the loss wears off and the busyness of decision making and funeral plans is over, the grieving begins in earnest.  The times the phone rings and your brain, on auto-pilot, expects it to be that loved one and the dreadful sinking torture when you remember that it simply cannot be. The days when you open a book and see that dear one's handwriting there, her note in the margin, or the odd scrap of paper in a stack of unfinished business on which you had jotted a something-to-do that one that no longer needs to be completed.

This is the business of grieving, the process of coming face to face with our own humanity.  In loss we realize how deeply, how greatly, how powerfully we have loved and we also must come to accept that we can never love perfectly.  It is to us to love the most we can in any moment and somehow that must always be enough. Grieving makes us hug our children tighter.

In grief we see what we could not see so clearly before: that our thinking and doing matters both tremendously and not at all and life is indeed a short journey able to end at any moment and without notice.  So much of what consumes my energy day to day -- cleaning, dressing, hair dos, email, shopping, errands -- won't matter at all.  I have never heard it said at a funeral that the deceased was a snappy dresser or stayed on top of her email. What most comes to light at funerals is how much our living affects others.  In Peggy's case we heard over and over of her bright and ready smile, her sympathetic ear, her love for her offspring,  her dedication and commitment to helping the helpless.

 In the end, it it is our relationships that outlive us.  We must give to them what we can, our utmost, and at the same time trust that it is and will be at last enough.

I am reminded of the sage lines of Thomas Bayley:

When the waves are round me breaking,
As I pace the deck alone,
And my eye in vain is seeking
Some green leaf to rest upon;
What would I not give to wander,
Where my old companions dwell...
Absence makes the heart grow fonder;
Isle of Beauty, "Fare-thee-well!"


Sarah Anthony said...

eYour words are gorgeous, true, and stunning. I write with tears streaming down my face upon my read. Thank you for bathing me in these tears. Much love to you, your friend, and your relationship. Sarah

Dreena M. Tischler said...

Thank you, Sarah. Much love to you, dear friend.