On Going to the Funeral

Sometimes choosing to postpone your personal agenda for someone else’s need is the greatest decision you’ll ever make.

My friend Tressa shared these words today, and I read them on my way home from a funeral. A funeral that my beloved and I took time off work to attend. A funeral that meant we had to adjust plans for another important meeting, and inconvenience some people. We had to postpone our personal agendas, to make room for someone else’s need.

It was a funeral for someone we love; andsomeone else we love has now been suddenly widowed. So we showed up, because we couldn’t not go. Because it is important to stop, remember, and grieve together, as the community around the person who is now gone from this earth.

I know it’s been said before, but I can tell you – from my personal experience – go to the funeral, friends.

On Going to the Funeral

At my dad’s funeral, those people who showed up mattered. It was possibly the loneliest day of my life, even though I had family around me. I was grieving for my loss of identity, feeling somewhat lost and at loose ends. Grieving my mom’s loss of a life-long love, my brother’s loss of the man who poured into him, my daughter’s loss of her doting Grandpa.

It can be inconvenient to show up, because life is full. There is always an agenda for our days and weeks, and funerals can feel like an abrupt, difficult interruption. And they are, aren’t they? They’re a jarring reminder that life is short, and that our days are not our own, and that heaven matters more than our agendas.

Go to the funeral, friend.

And more than that, show up in that space between now and the funeral. Show up at the hospital, even though it can be incredibly awkward when you don’t know what to say. Show up at hospice, even though it’s hard. Show up in life, long before hospitals or a hospice are ever part of the story.

My greatest regret about the funeral that I attended today was that our life was so full in the past year that we’ve not shown up much. I wish we could have had one more meal, or heard one more funny story. I wish we had more photos, and memories to carry with us.

When my dad was dying in palliative care, my brother-in-law showed up. It wasn’t convenient for his family, with a job and a hobby farm and three littles at home, and a 5-hour, red-eye flight, but he showed up. He made a huge difference, especially to my Love, who was experiencing his own loss as well. My cousin & his family also showed up…a number of times, actually. It wasn’t convenient, but it mattered, a lot. There were Dad’s friends who showed up at the hospital on regular rotation, and I think they helped him live until he couldn’t anymore. There was a pastor who brought the Eucharist at least once a week, and visited every other day.

They showed up.

Show up for life, friend. Live the incarnation.

As my friend Tressa said, “sometimes, postponing your personal agenda for someone else’s need is the greatest decision you’ll ever make.”

Your presence matters, and it probably matters more than you think. Be the person who shows up at the funeral, and the bedside, and the dinner, and the wedding, and the baby shower. I’m not saying it’s easy (in fact, it’s rather hard for me, since I get so tired of extroverting, and need introverting time just as much) but I’m learning that it matters.

On Going to the Funeral