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Monday, September 20, 2010

The 3 R's: Rites, Rituals and Remembrances.

Back to school!  I am taking a couple of college courses to be applied to a certification.  In my first class, I am the oldest person in the room, talk about a reality check.  The other class is pretty mixed, there a individuals of varying ages.  Even though I am older than most of the other students, I am very much looking forward to these classes.  I am most interested in being able to hear the view points of those much younger than myself.

Both of these classes deal with human nature and how we respond to events in our lives.  One of my instructors today made a comment that left me thinking, she said, 'you become stronger at the broken places." (Sullivan, P.)  I began to go through a mental list of all my broken places, all those hurts in my life, and reflected back on how I had lived through and survived them.  Most if not all of us have had difficulties in our lives, we have dealt with death, financial strife, divorce, and in today's economy loss of job and even maybe your home.  It is not easy, but we manage to get through it somehow, maybe even all the better because of it.

I look at my own situation, and I realize how far I have come, even though I know there is still much ahead of me.  I have learned to be understanding of why certain people do what they do, I now have more empathy for others, I avoid passing judgment and I make an effort to look at situations/issues from different angles.  I have learned to listen not only with my ears, but with my heart as well.  I wish I could say I am always like this, but alas I am after all human, and I have my moments and days, when I need these things from others.  

This past weekend we celebrated Rachel's life, we began with a remembrance at Mass, followed by a gathering of those who wish to join us at our home.  We cooked on the grill, some brought food and dessert, others brought beverages, but most importantly, we enjoyed each others company.  We did what my daughter loved best, getting together and having a good time.   It is amazing that four years later she is still bringing people together.  

I thought about all this as I attended my second class.  In this class one of our assignments is to make our own funeral arrangements, write a detailed resume of our life, and make sure we have complete instructions for before, during and after.  Pretty morbid sounding, right!  As I drove home, I really thought about it, and I realized that a funeral and all its rites and rituals are important.  When I think back to my daughters' funeral, I take comfort in knowing that it was a beautiful reflection of her life and what she was all about.  She brought together people from near and far, regardless of who they were and what they believed in.  For some of you it may be hard to see a funeral as something beautiful, but it can be, and Rachel's was all that and more. 

If you have been to a loved ones funeral, there are probably some aspects of it that you remember; maybe a kind word, special photos or video, a particular song that they liked, or their favorite flowers, whatever it was, it meant something to you or them.  For so many of us, this is our final tribute in honor of our loved one, our chance to say good bye.  So we make it memorable, we ask certain individuals to be pall bearers, we allow others to say words of remembrance, we involve ourselves and others in the process.  

For some of you, the death of your loved one left you unable to do or plan anything and that's okay too.  Most funeral homes and services, see to it that everything is done to help honor and celebrate the life of your loved one; or you may have allowed someone else to take care of the final arrangements.  Like everything I have said, you did what was right for you, and what helped you through a difficult time.  

You may still be having a hard time coping with the death of your loved one and thinking about the wake and funeral give you no comfort.  That's okay!  Again you do what is best for you.  

Life and death are an integral part of who we are as humans and even though we feel such sadness and hurt, it is part of our being human.  It doesn't mean it makes it easier, but it does allow us to feel the love.  I was reminded today in class that if someone were to approach me and tell me it hurts so much, why do I feel such pain?  The answer is because you loved them.  All love ends in pain, but man is it worth every minute of it.  

We continue to love everyone around us, we become more appreciative of them, and learn to forgive.  Like my assignment this week, we should live as if this were our last week.  

So remember the love, know that it never dies, and live your life in celebration of all those who you miss.  Allow yourself to honor the memory of your loved one, whether is be a simple service, elaborate rite, or just a gathering of family and friends.  Let yourself continue to grow.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

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