Friday, November 21, 2008

100 Years and Too Few Words

Today I went to the funeral for a woman who was 100 years old. I didn't know her. I knew others who knew her, but I didn't know her and had never met her. Its a strange thing to go to a funeral for someone you don't know. Its even stranger to walk away feeling like you still don't know the person.

I think funerals should tell a story, and too often they are reduced to touching or funny soundbites strung together as poor representations of one's life. Too often the minister doesn't know the deceased or doesn't know them well enough to do most of the talking. I realize these are religiously based rituals, but why do we insist on hearing mostly from a stranger when family and friends are the true vessels of truth?

The minister today told a few short stories, but they revealed very little about who this woman was. I kept thinking, "She lived for a hundred years! Can't you think of something better than that??" What I did learn was that she was a deeply religious woman, a woman of faith and family, and a kind and caring person. She was always there for everyone else. I suspect her greatest gift was always being present in a steady, reliable way for everyone. And her family counted on that from her. Always there. It explained why her four children (all 70 years old or more) were talking brightly at the beginning of it being a blessing, and were sobbing like forlorn children at the end. Always there was no longer there. Can you imagine having your mother with you, strong in body and clear in thought, until you are 70 years old? I both envied them, and felt touched by their sorrow.

All this to say: think about what you want people to say about you at your funeral. Will anyone really adequately put you into words? Does anyone truly get you? Does anyone know your passions, your loves, your feelings to the core? If not, why not? If not, maybe you should leave a few hints in your own words.

Ethel's life was summed up in words she wrote in the front of her Bible:

What I have, God owns
What I need, God provides
What I give, God multiplies

Rest in peace, Ethel.

1 comment:

Karen Tornberg said...

In Ethel's case, you see the story of her life in her children, grandchildren, etc. Norma, Denise, Deb, Morgan, Jonathan, Matthew...they are her legacy, her story told better than anyone could do justice with words. She is, indeed, resting in peace.