Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Momento Mori

I went to a funeral today. For a dear friend, and also the mother of a dear friend and also the mother of a child I've, often, in the last six months, halfway thought of as my own, and also the wife of a gentleman I've worked closely with for a long time.
This lady was a spectacular human being, and it was an honor and a privilege to gather with others who loved her, from her family, to her friends, to her coworkers, and celebrate her life.
But one wonders, why do we as a culture deal with death the way we do? There was no part of this girl's being who wanted to join the procession to peer down into the coffin at the empty shell that used to contain the soul that is my friend. This empty shell, not only no longer contained her, but, after a long battle with cancer, didn't even resemble the bright, joyous sunflower that was my friend. And I walked, and I kept my head down, and I peeked, and I hope that my face showed nothing of what I was thinking.
I dug out my black slacks and I ironed them and I drove to the church and I waited a minute so I didn't have to walk in alone, but I sat alone in the back and I didn't cry. Honest. And I stood and I sang and I sat and I listened and I smiled, because it was nice to be able to think about my friend again. I think, for a long time, I haven't been thinking about her, not directly, not as a person and as my friend. There's been so much up and down and worry and fear, not so much my own as the people's around me, that it's been easier to just not think. Today, I thought, and I remembered, and it was sweet. And I shuffled and I peeked and I shuffled out and I hugged and I talked and I saw friends I haven't seen in ages and I ducked out before everyone could leave for the graveside. And I went to a funeral all by myself for someone my parents didn't know. My own mom's never done that. It's surreal.
Tomorrow, everyone will say it was a beautiful service. They'll talk about how many people came, how many people loved her. And then the rest of us will keep moving forward. Her family, they'll be a bit longer. I can't imagine the hurt they're going through right now.
And maybe that's the point of the pomp and circumstance we surround death with. Maybe it's all an attempt at closure and finality, a trying to attach meaning so something that can so often seem meaningless. It's for the family, so that they can have something that they have set behind them, even though they have to keep on carrying the pain of it.
I've talked with my dad on the subject at some length, in the last couple of days. And he spoke of overcoming his own aversion to funerals, of learning to view them as important, sobering, and significant.
Momento mori. It's Latin. Translated roughly, "Remember your mortality," or "Remember, all must die."

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