Saturday, October 23, 2010

perspective and distance

I went to a funeral today. I went to show respect for a man I knew casually, who became part of my extended family, more or less, when his daughter married one of my cousins. Later, the two divorced, but this man and his wife attended family dinners, and parties and what-have-you with wonderful grace and acceptance and cheerfulness. I felt I could respect that by attending the services held today.

Funerals are not easy. It is never easy to say that good-bye to a loved one, and the pain and emotion can really cloud the memory of the ritual. There are good reasons for the funeral ritual, though, as there are good reasons for many of our common rituals. While I do in general understand the need for and the place of these rituals, I don't always feel the need to participate intimately in them. I think, for me, funerals are the exception.

You learn something important about the person who has died at their funeral. You see the people who cared for him or her, and you can kind of see their various circles of influence: family, work, faith, friends. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes not so much. When you aren't as emotionally involved, you can still gain a measure of respect for the person, and the various legacies they leave behind. The memories that are shared. The impact of their actions and their lives on others.

In some ways, it would be nice to be able to understand more of these aspects at the funeral of someone dearly loved, instead of being focused on the loss itself. I don't know how you would do that though, for that is, essentially the heart of a funeral.

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