Friday, June 17, 2011

Always go

I listened to a "This I Believe" podcast once titled Always Go to the Funeral.  In it, a woman tells the story of when she was a teenager and one of her teachers died.  Even though she was young, she went to the visitation and spoke to her teacher's parents.  Years later, when she sees her teacher's mother she is met with warmth.  Here is an excerpt from her story:

I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that.
The first time he said it directly to me, I was 16 and trying to get out of going to calling hours for Miss Emerson, my old fifth grade math teacher. I did not want to go. My father was unequivocal. “Dee,” he said, “you’re going. Always go to the funeral. Do it for the family.”
So my dad waited outside while I went in. It was worse than I thought it would be: I was the only kid there. When the condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson’s shell-shocked parents, I stammered out, “Sorry about all this,” and stalked away. But, for that deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered 20 years ago, Miss Emerson’s mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes.
That was the first time I went un-chaperoned, but my parents had been taking us kids to funerals and calling hours as a matter of course for years. By the time I was 16, I had been to five or six funerals. I remember two things from the funeral circuit: bottomless dishes of free mints and my father saying on the ride home, “You can’t come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral.”

I have thought about this essay many times since I first heard it.  For many years it was difficult for me to make it to funerals.  I had little children, or I was in college, or I was working.  As I have gotten older, and as I have matured, I have come to realize the importance of just being there.  

It can be easy for me to put the focus on me and ask myself things like whether or not I can be a comfort to people I don't really know that well.  And I can't answer that question.   I know for sure that God can't use me to be a comfort, or to give a warm hug, or just to be a presence if I am not there.   

So today I will get out of my little introverted comfort zone and go to a funeral for someone I didn't know at all.  I am an acquaintance of his widow, though, and I can just be there.

Here is the link to this essay.  If you have time, you would enjoy reading it.   

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