Please hear me out on this: Life is not all about hype and happiness. Meaning bubbles to the psyche from moments of sadness as often as glee. Relationships among coworkers, friends, and family mean you’ll eventually lose those you love. And as part of working through your grief, you’ll attend a funeral or memorial to celebrate their life.
Certainly, “paying your respects” honors the deceased and comforts their family members. But consider how your presence at such services benefits you by causing you to …
The same daily physical routine can lull you into boredom and stagnation, where you fail to grow mentally, relationally, emotionally, or spiritually. Eat a little, work a little, sleep a little, go again. Eat a little, work a little, sleep a little, go again. Eat a little, work a little, sleep a little, go again.
A funeral doesn’t happen every day. It changes the physical pattern for at least an hour. Enough time to jar the thought pattern onto a deeper track.
Inevitably at funerals and memorial services, officiating leaders call attention to the fact that life is short—particularly if the deceased was a young person and most especially if the death was caused by an sudden accident or a short illness.
Few people contemplate dying young. But when forced to face the inevitable prospect, we tend to look back on all our dreams and plans and re-sort our priorities in light of current realities. Maybe we add a few new dreams and push a few old dreams to the bottom of the pile.
Re-evaluation and urgency are always good things when talking about dreams. As many have observed, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.” For some, goal-to-deadline-and-plan conversion may be in order.
At the smallest funeral I attended, fewer than a dozen people showed up––and five of us were family members. I’ve also attended a couple of funerals where there were more than a thousand people. Then there have been many funerals where attendance fell somewhere in between—in the hundreds. But in each case, I was struck by the importance and impact of relationships in the life of the deceased.
Some lived in ways that left them almost in isolation. Others derived great joy from their friendships and had led a life of lasting influence.
As an observer, watching the crowds come in—or seeing the empty seats––can’t help but cause you to reflect on your own relationships. How deep are they? How lasting are they? How much joy do they bring you? What are you doing to strengthen them?
At funerals, these questions typically come to mind: Am I using my God-given skills, gifts, and talents to leave this world a better place than when I entered it? What kind of impact will my life have? What will colleagues, friends, and family remember when I’m gone? After this life, what?
My Christian faith provides meaningful answers to these biggest questions of all. I trust your own faith, philosophy, or belief system provides answers and gives you comfort.
If not, make your way to a few more funerals for further reflection. Despite sadness, out of deep reflection comes life’s most satisfying peace and joy.
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