I attended a funeral yesterday for a wonderful 96-year-old lady. I didn't know her well, but her daughter-in-law is a friend with whom I work. It was interesting to hear of her life, she was a delightful woman who worked hard during her life, raised three wonderful children, loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and loved the Lord. There were many people in attendance, there were beautiful flowers (she loved flowers!), beautiful music (Patti can play for me anytime!!), and a great message of eternal life. Did I mention the flowers? :)
But I was a bit distracted with my own thoughts. Actually, I was a bit distracted with thoughts from previous funerals.
My sisters and I have been honored to provide special music for many, many funerals over the past however many years. We've been part of incredibly sad, mournful services, and we've been to a couple services where it was hard not to keep the smiles off our faces due to the joy everyone felt for the deceased. After watching a loved one suffer, and/or after a long, well-lived life, there is a sense of joy and relief the family and loved ones feel when their burden of living is released.
My mentor, Fr. Frank Hoelck, always said funerals are more for the living than they are for the one who has died. How true. The person we are remembering has passed into their eternal glory - WE are the ones left with sadness, loss, emptiness. WE are the ones who need to gather and comfort one another. I love Fr. Frank's words of wisdom when they come back to me.
One of my sisters had a co-worker who commented one time how remarkable funerals are. He explained by saying that you can plan a gathering, send invitations, plan food, etc., and people will find reasons and excuses why not to attend. But for funerals, people go out of their way to make plans, rearrange schedules in order to attend. He has a good point.
Probably my most favorite thought of funerals came, I believe, from a relative of mine when we were planning our great-aunt's funeral Mass. They said, "Funerals are so much like weddings. There's alot of people. Everyone dresses up. There's alot of flowers. There's food afterwards. They're alot alike." We all laughed at the truth in that statement.
And that's much of what I was pondering yesterday through much of Viola's funeral. I thought of this as I listened to the minister talk of Viola's faith and her life. As I relefected on Patti's angelic singing. As I admired the amazing floral arrangements - the lilies, the roses. (Can you tell I'm a flower person too?!)
Why do we wait until someone is gone to celebrate life? Why do we wait to say the good things about them when they're not present to hear them? Why are all those beautiful flowers all at the church at the same time? Why don't we send those gorgeous arrangements throughout the life of the person so they can enjoy their beauty? Why do we have to wait for someone else to tell how they saw Christ in the way we lived?
I thought about these things. And I decided the following:
I want to celebrate life every day. I want to remember to let people know what I appreciate about them. I want people to know what they mean to me. I want to enjoy beautiful flowers every day. I want others to enjoy flowers while they can enjoy their beauty. I want to live my life so others see Christ through how I live every day.
Yes, I'd love for other people to say nice things about me when I'm gone. But more importantly, like so many other faithful followers of Christ, I want to be greeted with the most enormous embrace when I pass through Heaven's gate, and hear the amazing voice of Jesus greeting me with, "Well done, good and faithful servant....." The thought of that makes me cry. And smile. What an amazing reward, and what an amazing welcome into eternity it will be.
And I bet the flowers will be unbelievable too!