For the LivingI'd always heard the old expression that funerals aren't for the deceased, they're for those left behind.
I'd never quite understood the gravity of that phrase until this afternoon. See, today I went to a funeral.
The deceased was the brother of a friend of mine - someone I haven't known for very long, nor are we particularly close. He's a recent participant in a morning Bible Study I've begun attending at a local restaurant. Let's call him Steve.
I never met Steve's brother, and as it turns out it's probably a good thing. You see, his brother did some Bad Things. Actually, some Very Bad Things. And it seems he also took the Easy Way Out, if you see my meaning.
The afternoon was cool, but clear and sunny. There were a number of family members and friends at the graveside service, as well as Steve, his father, his wife, and Steve's brother's wife. I and the other members of the Bible study group came together to support our new friend, and we met several folks there. We murmured our condolences, and stayed out of the way. On the other side of the cemetary, some children ran and played amongst the headstones. Every few minutes something that looked like an Air Force radar plane lumbered by, circling the airport area.
Then the graveside service started.
I've always wondered what people would say at my funeral. It's not something I like to dwell on, obviously, but I'd like to think the minister and whoever spoke would find some nice things to say about me. He was a good son, a good father, a good friend. He loved music, he loved theatre, he loved science fiction, he loved things that made people smile. That sort of thing. This service was different, there was none of those platitudes for the brother, because he had done a Very Bad Thing, and because of that he took that Easy Way Out.
The minister's words were words of comfort for his surviving family. While I took some meaning away from them, I wonder if the family were able to hear through their grief. I hope that something of his words will have some resonance with them in the days ahead, because they will need it.
The brother's name was mentioned about twice, both times in context of recalling playful times as a child enjoying his brother, Steve's company. But that was it. The noise of the plane at regular circling intervals provided almost chapter breaks for the me
The service lasted about a half an hour. Muffled sobs throughout the assembly, but for most a look of quiet bewilderment. What only 48 hours earlier had been trouble, but trouble that could be dealt with and atoned for - now is a new kind of trouble. And this will never fully heal.
Sometimes you think about the choices you make in life, and you feel proud of the paths you've chosen. Not "pride" proud, but happy - happy the paths you took led you to thouch people's lives that made you richer, and enrichened them. Experiences that you remember and build on, that pointed you to new, deeper experiences. People you met, people you've helped, people you've loved.
Others take the wrong path, and ahead lies nothing but chaos and tragedy and tears and mystery.
As we drove away, I realized the plane must have finally landed several minutes before. Some people choose to end their pain in the their own way, and for them it stops. For those left behind, the guilt and loss goes on and on.
Lord grant them comfort.