Funerals inspire me. First and foremost funerals are awful and no matter the age of the person you are paying your respects to they are extremely hard, yet they still inspire me.
I was playing this “icebreaker” game with some co-workers (years ago) and the question was “what would you most like to be remembered for?” With no hesitation I blurt out “I’d like to be a gracious hostess!!” The ladies in the room are almost embarrassed for me that out of all things to be remembered for this was my wish. I stood/stand behind it and of course there is always a story behind a quirky thought. Years ago an elderly husband and wife who I was related to died together. Yes, together. Husband and wife were murdered in their home after a dispute with a renter turned tragically wrong. Not to minimize their death and mostly because I was younger and didn’t follow the case so I don’t have all of the details, out of respect of getting something wrong I’ll leave it at that. What I vividly remember was a packed memorial service and when it got to the part in the service where they opened up the mic to anyone that wanted to share a memory about the beloved couple… person after person stood up and told very much the same story. The couple was always a gracious host/hostess. Grandkids told stories of how they could drop in anytime and Grandma would put on hot cocoa and always had a homemade pie in the fridge. She made everyone feel welcome, always. She never had that panicked look on her face that I get when an unexpected visit arrives at my country doorstep and I don’t have a bra on or there’s laundry on the couch. I live in the country for a reason, primarily all the livestock. If I HAD to live in the city one of the things that would make me the saddest would be figuring out a bra routine. I suppose you just get used to it, surely there has been a study about city limit lifespan vs country lifespan of women. It would be no surprise to me that country women live longer because they can fling their bra off more carefree (this also has to affect the lifespan of those around them).
It doesn’t matter what size a funeral is, all shapes can be equally inspiring. I have been lucky enough to love people that have passed on that were loved by so many their service had to be held in a gymnasium. Did this person know they were loved by so many? I sure hope so… I have also been to a funeral that was so small in attendance that the director did a very unique thing for the family. We were in an average size funeral home, similar to most churches where I’m from. The family of the deceased sat in the first 2 rows on the right side. The rest of us scattered ourselves around the remaining pews. There had to be less than 30 of us there, maybe even 20. For whatever reason people scatter themselves as if we are trying to make the pews look more full, who this show is for I’m not sure but the director asked everyone sitting behind the family to come in closer where he then ushered us in behind the small crew of family members the deceased had left. That in itself was moving, what looked like an empty room of random strangers dotted about had now become this larger support group. We were sitting so close, that brilliant director squeezed us in there; we had no choice but to feel connected. The memorial became much more intimate, we could reach out and touch the shoulder of his daughter when she started to cry. A man got up and told sweet stories of when they were just boys; how he looked up to him because they didn’t have a lot growing up and he remembered how good his brother was at washing his socks by hand and hanging them to dry so he always had a clean pair in the morning. This man went on to talk of the admiration he had for his late brother, for always being prepared and doing the right thing meanwhile this grown man was weeping about such a simple memory. His sharing made everyone laugh through the tears because he admitted he just always wore his socks over and over and rarely washed them.
Since I’ve blurted out that goal to graciously host it’s probably a lot less about acting like Martha Stewart and more about making a difference because you made someone feel special. Simple but that’s what brings tears to my eyes at funerals. It’s not accomplishments or how much they acquired. It’s the memory of a young boy washing socks in the sink or tales of harmless pranks that another cherished community member would play on any and everyone that has you laughing while there are simultaneously tears dripping off your chin. Those are the best funerals, certainly the most inspiring. A life well lived. I could share funeral after funeral where there was inspiration to be a better person, laugh more, visit more. Tales of good food, a welcomed visit, making people laugh and feel special are what I want to be remembered for.