The Secret to a Happy Life Found at Funerals!
I have 15 days to get ready. I know exactly how many days because my Delta app has a countdown to our first flight to Chile. I would love to say I am right on schedule, but the messes I am creating prove that I am not. I am way behind. But even with the short amount of time left, the messes I am creating and a 100+ item list that is growing faster than I can check things off, there are things that need attending. My kids still eat, tires need to be purchased, and unfortunately a dear friend of mine passed away and her funeral was a must to attend. However, like many funerals, including Anne’s, it wasn’t a horrible morose day. It was not morose, in part, because we share faith in an afterlife and a belief that we can be reunited with our loved ones. Moreover, a funeral should be a celebration of all the wonderful things which made that person special. (For some of us, that may mean a short funeral.) My friend’s funeral lasted a good 2 hours and could have extended another 2 hours with stories of her goodness and examples of how happy she was with her life.
I am not going to say I like funerals, however, I enjoy seeing the reflection of the deceased, rippled by grief, in the faces of the living. The stories, they tell as they seek out the most representative and positive anecdotes, combine to inspire the mourners. As one of the mourners, today, I was inspired by the life of my friend. The stories from her family revolved around big family decisions, and the times their family was on the move, the places they went, the happiness they found together. This focus on the down times is not unique to this family. I have seen a subtle theme repeated at funerals. Family vacations, travel or time spent away from the daily grind stand out to those who are doing the remembering. Those unique experiences are the source of many shared memories. The forced togetherness, the ability to sit together and talk for days, and the time spent in reflection create growth. Once the experiences have passed into the past, they continue to expand in importance and cement the bonds between the participants.
I don’t need any more inspiration. We are going. I have plane tickets. I have quit my job, but it is nice to have a reminder of why we are doing this trip; of why we did the last trip. We each have only one opportunity to live the life we want, but we have many chances to grow, to experience something new and to live beyond ourselves. We get to create the narrative we want repeated at our funerals. My friend’s son gave a wonderful talk. He is only in his mid 20’s, but his insights were wonderful. He saw his mother’s narrative as one of fun and giving. He said she gave her life, not in an instant, but in many small moments to help others. Even the quote, that adorned the program, shows the love and caring she had for everyone else. “Your best days are ahead of you,” she said to her family. I hope that is true for their family, for our family and all of us. I don’t know every secret to a happy life. But funerals do provide some insights. Look forward with anticipation to a better future, both in this life and the next. Often reflect on the all the wonderful things in your life and create a narrative that is true to you. Others will see it and share it, even after you have passed.