I didn't know the person very well, the first thing I remembered was an unintentional slight against my wife (that Lori had long forgotten about) and would I be attending for the wrong reasons? In the end, I decided I must attend - I must be supportive of my friend. He was my friend because I didn't unfriend him when he stopped being my co-worker. So even if I only virtually saw him on Facebook or when I checked in at the Starbucks where he's the mayor, he was still a part of my life and I his.
But I had wrestled with it. The only memorials/funerals I have been to any time recently were grandparents. The sense of loss is far different. These were people who had left behind a long legacy, and in some cases, struggled with illness for years prior to death. They were, if not ready to go, at least prepared. And so were we. Even in the cases where the death was more unexpected or without warning, their age to some degree may have given us warning.
But here was a young woman, younger than me, leaving behind a 3-year-old (and a husband, a friend). And I struggled with that. It was hard to comprehend, it made no sense. And if I went, would it be in part so that others from work would see me there and know I was a good guy? Would I have to talk to people?
In the end, I realized I had actually made the decision long before - when I became a Christian, when I became a friend, when I realized I was a human being not a robot -- that we are designed to be in community, to be there, to support others, and as a few friends said, "to show up." As I tried to debate attending or not, I also thought of another completely unrelated conversation earlier in the way where I had quoted Wayne Gretzy and the popular quote about how "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." If I was really going to work on my soft skills (an admitted and pointed-out area of weakness for me), I wasn't going to get any better by lamenting my weakness and then doing nothing about it.
I tried to think about how I'd feel in someone else's shoes... in my friend's shoes... or in her shoes... would I want someone like me attending? And I realized that in some ways, that was all irrelevant. At that point in that moment, it was both not about me and it was all about me. It was not about me because it wasn't my memorial, it wasn't a memorial for a close relative of mine. It was about me because all I had in that moment was how I was going to respond. It wasn't something I could rationalize or scientifically analyze. It was how I was going to be, as a human being, in that moment. Even the part of me that looks for signs pointed out that Lori's usual Thursday evening engagement wasn't happening this week, the memorial was only blocks from my house - what more did I need?
So in the end, I went. And it wasn't about me. I didn't see anyone I knew (save the husband) - there was just so many people there, it was a big church and I was able to sit near the back without looking like a loner or an outcast. It was about her, it was about her family and their ability to cherish her memory, and it was about Jesus and theirs (and my) belief that our lives here are but a glimpse and that there is life after death (and that it's a life in fellowship with God or permanently away from God) and their celebration of the confidence that she was now with God, not because of what she'd done but because she'd accepted God's invitation to join him by accepting God's gift of Jesus Christ. It's all about the people left behind, with is their family, is me, is the world, anyone who's still down here on earth. And that's how we're all connected.
And it was a beautiful time. Beautiful songs, beautiful memories from loving family members and friends, a beautiful slideshow, and just as importantly, true honesty, especially from her brother who admitted not understanding, and being angry and about the unfairness of it all as well as a really great quote from Hemingway (they had visited his house in Florida a day or two before her death):
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.Maybe now I can put this topic to bed for a little while. Driving home listening to "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin" I was reminded of Josey, whose death I had learned of a few Christmases ago (she was my age and had actually died months earlier but no one told me) and realized I had almost made it through the season without thinking of her.
Today I thought of two more things I'd like for my memorial which will hopefully not be for a long time:
* The song "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" ("It is well with my soul" is kinda cool too)
* Helium balloons and Sharpie markers - so people can write funny or happy or sad things on the balloons and then let them go - I've always enjoyed writing things on balloons after birthday parties and then letting them go ("Help, I'm trapped in the Federal Way Party City" or "4 8 15 16 23 42" or "Celebrating my beautiful daughter's birthday today.") - it's an interesting way to possibly with unknown people and I think it would be a beautiful way for people to "let go" - it could also brings color and life and joy and laughter to what's, let's face it, ostensibly be a celebration whether you love me or hate me
But again, hope it's a long ways off. As much as heaven's supposed to be better than here and take away all the stress and the theory I like is that the time between your arrival and your relative's is instantaneous, there's still lots of love I want to give to my family.
Lori said she was going to invite Hanson to come and sing at my memorial and I said as long as they sing something good and further clarified that that means a cover of someone else's work and none of their songs
Ok, seriously, time to stop talking about this stuff.