Today I attended the funeral of a neighbor and friend from my childhood.
I read his obituary yesterday in the newspaper (which was unusual because I don’t usually read the newspaper, much less the obituary section).
The day was the most beautiful, breezy, sunny, puffy-white-clouds-sailing-by day that one could ever wish for. And this person was the same. He was always smiling, laughing, singing, and in a good mood.
So I became sad when I read of his passing and I felt that I must go to his funeral.
I had not been to the church where his funeral was in about 20 years. And I had not run into him in about the same amount of time.
So I entered a little time-warp as I passed through the church doors.
The church was brighter than I remember it being. The dark cork on the walls had been replaced with a light linen and the dark wood benches had been refinished in their natural blonde color.
And all around me, the church was filled with people who were touched by this man. There were faces that I knew from long ago, older but still easily recognizable. There were faces from more recent times that I did not know were connected to him. But I was not surprised.
Then in came his casket, followed by his family. His many siblings were all older than I was. And I remember being afraid of his brother and father, having crushes on all of his sisters, and sharing many kind words with his mother, who was a good friend of my mother.
And his family looked pretty much the same, but a little older. And were I still neighbors with them, I’d still have crushes on his sisters. And perhaps I’d still be afraid of his dad. But his brother had mellowed a bit.
But, his family had multiplied! Wonderful young people were all over the place that looked like his brothers and sister and his parents, roaming the world, doing wonderful things!
As the magnitude of this overtook me during the ceremony, my sadness turned to smiles and hope. For though I had not seen him in many years, I could easily imagine the happy times that he shared with all of these people, new and old.
Sometimes we are living life, in prime health and good fortune, and we think that our bodies will live forever. But when you attend a funeral, you are reminded of the truth. Almost nothing is forever. Almost.
And as I sat and listened to the priest give his homily, I imagined myself making my way up to the microphone and sharing my own words, choking back the last few remaining tears and suddenly gaining strength.
“We gather here to celebrate the life of this wonderful man! A person who was always smiling and spreading good cheer. A man who probably never said a bad word about anyone. A man who knew the simple secrets of life. A man who touched us all.
And though on the surface it might appear that his his flame is dead and gone and never to be seen again. However, if we quiet ourselves and look again, we can see that his flame lives on in each of us.
It glows brightly still in his ever-expanding family, and all of the friends gathered here today to honor him.
Rather than moving through life, perhaps life moved through him freely, with no resistance. And he amplified it with everything he did.
And when we think of him with sadness we need only look into eachother’s eyes or inside ourselves and we can smile. For we were fortunate to know him and his flame burns on and on.”