There is odd inflection point in the arc of your life when you realize that you are attending more funerals than weddings. I consider myself a spiritual person, although not particularly religious. Years ago we decided on a preference for cremation rather than burial. My hope is for a proper Irish wake rather than a visitation. Recently, however, I attended the funeral of a friends’ father that I felt was one of the finest farewells I could ever imagine.
The funeral was held on piece of land that had been part of a family farm on John’s Island for almost three hundred years. The ceremony was held under a huge white tent pitched beside a newly raised barn (filled with family photos), shaded by live oaks and with a cool October breeze. Countless butterflies flittered around the memorial flower displays which included sunflowers picked from the fields just beyond the gravesite.
Whatever the format, in my opinion, a funeral has to be about family. As we took our seats under the white tent, I immediately noticed that the first ten rows were reserved for family. The rest of us filled in the following twenty or thirty rows for friends and fellow travelers. There couldn’t be a better testaments to the measure of a man, than the number of family and friends who gather to say goodbye and so long for now.
I also noted the sounds. There was a lamentful and reverent cello playing in the background, but not so loud that you could not also hear the rustling of oak leaves and the calling of birds that you only hear in the country. Mostly, however, you heard the sounds of laughter and claps on the back which evidenced a life well-lived; being celebrated rather than mourned.
Two pastors spoke who honored the man and struck the appropriate religious notes. The highlight of the funeral, however. was the remembrances offered by his nephew. It was a family tribute that was heartfelt and moving. It brought laughter and tears. For the people in the seats beyond the first ten rows, the nephew told us more about the man and his footprint than any sermon could ever achieve.
The nephew’s beautiful and loving recollection ended with a vision of a perfect and fulfilling reunion, at God’s feet, of his uncle with his wife and other friends and family. I pray that such a reunion awaits me as well. However, I know that the very first step to everlasting life is the sharing of memories under the big white tent.
The memories that I have of my father and mother, of my grandfathers and grandmothers and my children’s memories of their family who have passed,are the memories that I carry with me and think about everyday. Memories that are the essence of everlasting life. My memories are the Holy Spirit and the souls of my departed loved ones that never leave me.
I suspect that my deciphering of the mystery of everlasting life is somewhat different than many others attending the funeral. However, from the perspective of sharing memories across generations and beautifully celebrating what a man meant to his family, the funeral I attended was a very fine farewell. I am enriched to have been there.
Picking the right Springsteen song to accompany this post was not difficult. A number of Bruce’s songs deal with the complicated relationship that he had with his father. However, My Hometown, from the Born in the USA album is probably the most elegant in its portrayal of family relationships and the importance of shared memories.
“Last night me and Kate we laid in bed
talking about getting out.
Packing up our bags maybe heading south.
I’m thirty-five, we’ve got a boy of our own now.
Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and
said son take a good look around.
This is your hometown.”
Addendum: As I expected, I had several comments about my blog on overprescribing of opioids by Ob-Gyns following cesarean delivery
, both pro and con. I will copy a couple of the good ones below. For those of you who didn’t see it, however, I would advise checking out last week’s 60 Minutes expose on how the drug companies and drug suppliers wrote legislation and bribed (correction- donated to) legislators to pass a bill that hamstrung efforts by the DEA to investigate the opioid distribution supply patterns in the United States. A story which answers my question why we are worried about post operative women getting 20 instead of 40 Percocet tablets when 11 million opioid tablets are being shipped to a pharmacy/pain clinic in a county with a population of less than 25,000 people in West Virginia. By the way, the primary sponsor of the bill that keeps the DEA from investigating large scale drug supply anomalies was Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as his Prescription Drug Czar. Rep. Tom Marino of Pa. withdrew himself from consideration for this position after the 60 Minutes episode was aired.
Blog Comment : Thanks for shedding some much needed perspective on this! As a mother who had significant pain following my C-section, I agree that women who have had legitimate surgery that is expected to cause pain (oh and they are caring for a small human and toting engorged breasts around 24/7 rather than the usual postop bedrest)should not be shamed for needing pain medication and should not be punished for the larger societal struggles with addiction.
Blog Comment : Interesting blog and opinions. However, I don’t believe the articles in the Green Journal are proposing this battle get fought on the backs of pregnant women or new mothers. Ob Gyn patients should be included in the over-prescribing initiatives, not excluded. There is data that about 3/1000 women who had cesarean deliveries become addicted to the drugs we over prescribe. Although its a potential burden to have new mothers have to come back in for a refill if 20 tablets isn’t enough–but based on the use of the drugs in the studies cited, perhaps the mother who is still in that much pain should be evaluated since her pain is lasting longer than normal…maybe a wound infection or endometritis? Maybe depression? Maybe an underlying opioid use disorder? What about abuse?