Sunday, February 11, 2007

the funeral ...

In the end

Funeral weekend ….full of sadness and tears…moments of laughter and smiles … reunions …old patterns replayed …memories re-shared …hurts forgiven…and some not.

When first looking around the chapel at the people gathered, I see my aunt’s family and friends ... I label the faces …sometimes passing judgment with the identifying adjectives I use. Making note of who I remember and in what context I perceive them.

The service starts. Her faith practiced ceremony in a way unfamiliar to most of my family. The hushed tones sharing comments on the service, the amount of incense, and the repetition of verse, the incantations in song… reach my ears. I am curious, a student of ceremony, hoping to pick up some new ideas and to learn more about the comfort found in rituals. It is different – it is my Aunt – it is exactly what it should be to honor her.

The second time I look around the chapel, I see something different. I see people who were a part of my Aunt’s long life. I see people who loved my aunt and shared her life in many different ways. I see people whom my aunt loved. The critical adjectives that came so naturally to mind earlier have been replaced with an inner sense that these people gathered here reflect the love given and received during her life.

Each of the people present, as well as those unable to attend, made my Aunt smile; they provided her joy; they provided her with gossip to share; they comforted her; they filled her life with meaning and love. Looking around the room that second time, I see fragile human beings who shared their gifts with my Aunt; wanting to love and be loved by her.

Not everyone comes into our lives offering the same gift. Some people have more time, money, compassion, music, intellect, philosophy, energy …the list of potential gifts is endless. There is one gift we all possess, one gift we all can share at any time, with any one. That is the gift of love and compassion. When I look at people I will harder in the future to see the love and compassion that is part of their inner self. These two labels are all I need, realizing that any other label is short-sighted. I will try to look around any room and see beyond first impressions, long forgotten offenses, and superficial judgments. I will try to see the love that is present.

Funerals make us nostalgic. I long for broken connections with family and friends to be healed. I hope that whenever I think of my Aunt, I am reminded of the lesson I re-learned at her funeral. In the end, there is only love.

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