Just yesterday I attended yet another family funeral. It seems as I get older there are more and more of them. As my family ages; illness, accidents or longevity takes over, and we find ourselves saying good-bye too often. Yet, there is a beauty in the funeral experience. Yes, I said beauty! As I sat at the funeral home; while I waited for the procession to start for the Mass, and then again toward the cemetery; my daughter's funeral came vividly to mind. I remembered the sadness of the days, but I also remembered the outpouring of love, the kind words of family, friends and even strangers. And most importantly, the message spoken loud and clear - here was someone who was special to so many people, here was someone that lived, loved and left so many wonderful memories. Memories to be cherished and shared; yes they may bring tears occasionally, or find us laughing out loud, but they serve as reminders of what they meant and still mean to us.
When I think back to almost 6 years ago now, I still recall the people who went out of their way to let us know they cared, to hold our hands or to simply share their strength but standing silently by our side. The community had a chance to say good-bye, acknowledge the grief, and enter into our pain, even if only for a brief moment. This 'chore' as so many people see it, is one of our first tentative steps toward healing and accepting our loss. Humanity's need to say good-bye, to come together to comfort and console one another, speaks of our need to nurture and be nurtured.
Also funerals, like weddings, allow us to catch up with relatives and friends that we have not seen in a long while or even years. It gives us a chance to reminisce about what we have meant to one another, to feel the connecting thread in our lives. As I spoke to relatives and friends, yesterday, the same theme came flowing through the words I heard. There was a familial bond that could be felt by those present, a connectivity that could not be explained. A strong message that family mattered above all else, and that no matter what twists and turns may have occurred, we were all where we needed to be at that very moment. That the foundations of love, compassion and strong family ties, had been laid down long before many of us came into existence.
It is this very foundation, that has helped me during many a dark day. A gentle reminder that there are people in my life who care, who want to be there for me when I need, who are willing to stop, if even briefly, to enter into my pain. This coupled with my faith, has made the journey easier to bear, it is the conviction of being loved and capable of loving, of learning to give and when necessary to take (even when it seems to be against our very nature), to allow ourselves to be in the moment. As Fr. Joe said yesterday, 'it is us allowing a glimpse of God's mercy and grace to shine through who we are.' 'To be a window into Heaven, and all God wants us to be to one another.' We do not walk alone, and on those days when we do feel all alone, it is our faith and the companionship of others that keeps us going.
Yet so many of us are not necessarily blessed with big families as I am; but if we are willing to venture out; to reach beyond ourselves, to stretch into the uncomfortableness; we too will find a helping hand. A cherished, close friend, a counselor, a support group, or someone in our work environment or faith community, who will lend us an ear, is an asset to be treasured. Finding such a gem helps us along this long, arduous journey. Yes, it is work and it gets messy, but the only way to heal is to go through it, and what better than finding someone to take along. Someone who will push, pull or simply sit beside you when you need to rest. We all need one another, and none of us is an island, and even on those days when we feel so isolated, someone is busy building a bridge.
Let love flow through you, to you and out again. Allow others to be there for you, and do not be afraid, or too proud, to reach out to others. Remember 'there is strength in numbers.' Take care of yourself, and allow others to care for you, and keep in mind, that grief takes time. So allow yourself all the time you need. Grief is all about YOU at this very moment, and only YOU know what you are experiencing, just know that YOU are not alone, ever! Our loved ones may leave us physically, but their presence is a major part of our very being. Love knows no boundaries, and what we shared with our loved ones, is no exception.
Blessings! and until we meet again.