As we grow older and mature a little, we come to realize that a funeral is a response to death and that grief is exactly the right response. We also understand that attending such gatherings can teach valuable lessons.
A funeral home, granted, is a seemingly odd place to learn valuable lessons. It is not so much a place of death, however, but a location where love is openly on display. People perish somewhere else. Look around you. Everywhere you turn, there is evidence of love.
People often travel long miles to see a beloved family member, good friend, or acquaintance one last time at death. They do it because of love. Those who cannot come send cards and flowers. Every person and every flower is the result of an act of love and a testament to the loss that death brings.
In a strange sort of way, death brings home to us a lesson about joy. There is an outpouring of love, appreciation, and respect for the one we have lost. There is also the sharing of love among those who have come far from home. There is a joy in being alive, a joy in being reunited with loved ones we have not seen for a long time, and a great comfort in the sharing of grief.
There are moments in our grief when we see someone we have not seen in many years, learn something new, hear a story about the deceased that makes us chuckle, find a name on a spray of flowers, or find something else that makes us feel good inside. We may even learn a few lessons from death through those we meet. We feel a certain amount of joy even as we shed tears of sorrow. Such tears are necessary for us to cope with the loss, for Shakespeare once stated, "To weep is to make less the depth of grief."
One of the lessons of death is that is important to remember others. We remember the one we have lost. We remember the many good times we had together, the stories we shared, the triumphs and tribulations, the joys and disappointments, the laughter and the tears. Most of all, we remember how much we will miss him or her.
Death can bring us times of needed reflection. When you visit a funeral and gaze on the person lying in a coffin, do you ever imagine yourself there? Do you wonder who will come to yours, what they will talk about, or who will send flowers or call? What will they say about you when your turn comes? Who will preach the sermon or read words over you when you are lying there?
Death can sometimes cause us to take stock of our lives, to reevaluate how we are living, and to refocus ourselves on what is truly important in life. Since time and chance happen to all humans, we never know which day will be our last, as King Solomon so aptly wrote about (Ecclesiastes 9:11 - 12).
A funeral is a time of hope. Solomon wrote, "For whoever is among the living, there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion" (Ecclesiastes 9:4). Job wrote of a coming resurrection of the dead when he stated, "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, until my change comes" (Job 14:14). The apostle Paul also spoke about the hope of living again when he said that, although by man death came to all, through Jesus Christ life is made available to everyone (1Corinthians 15:21 - 22).
We will all have to face the end of our road someday. Before we do, what lessons will we have learned? We need to ask ourselves what kind of road we want to leave behind. Meditate and pray on the lessons you have learned and make sure you are still practice them.
Ask yourself if you want, upon your death, to leave a life filled with regret and disappointment, or one filled with love, giving, caring, sharing and putting others first. What lessons would you like others to learn from your life? As a not-too-old saying goes, we ought to live our life in such a way that even the undertaker is sorry to see us go.