Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on a Funeral

I’m not sure why we cry at funerals. There may be as many different reasons as the people wiping tears and blowing noses.

Mark passed much too soon. I’m not referring to age alone, although age 52 qualifies as too soon. It was too soon for Sue, his wife who was lost 30 years or so of earthly love, companionship and support. Of course, it was way too soon his boys Brad & Steve. It is not just age: 52 years is plenty of time on earth for a selfish jerk. By contrast, if cancer had skipped Mark and he’d blown out 85 birthday candles, death still would have come too soon because he touched the lives of people in positive ways, and those people would never want to lose him at any age.

Nancy said, tearfully, “I wish you’d known him.” Yesterday, I got to know him. Maybe I got to know him better than I would have gotten to know him over pizza in the year before he passed.

What better testimony can there be to a man’s life than to see the embodiment of his life’s work and values in the form of sons, Brad and Steve. It’s unfortunate that so many people consider a body of work as something other than a living body. When Hollywood directors die, we review their bodies of work: their movies. Police officers and lawyers have their “war stories” of different cases, or challenges, or exciting moments, as if a collection moments or successes constitute a life well spent. Although Brad & Steve’s words sketched the chronology of Mark & Sue’s life, the sons’ bearing and poise said a lot more about their parents’ life and legacy.

Mark’s siblings gave us a feel for their oldest brother. Their stories described a man with a good sense of humor and a positive outlook, who lived his values and taught by example.

The Bishop added his observations on the family he’d come to know. He was a total wreck, more so than Mark’s two sons, brothers, sister or the 13 nieces and nephews who sang. He looked like he’d been crying for days, and he continued to cry while discussing the strength and independence of Sue and the family. Going back to the question, why do people cry? One reason I cry is when I see other people cry and begin to comprehend, even slightly, their knowledge and feelings that are beyond words. For 2 ½ years, the Bishop had known about Mark’s cancer. With the greatest respect and admiration, the Bishop witnessed how the family confronted, fought, and ultimately had to share their home with cancer. He observed how Sue and the boys carried out extraordinary efforts that became everyday necessities with the grace that comes from love, faith and living one’s beliefs.

The Bishop said, “Mark never asked, ‘Why me?’” But the Bishop pondered the question. I think his answer was that the cancer gave the family a chance to teach all of us some lessons about what matters most in life.

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