“All I ever do is go to funerals,” my father used to complain, after he retired. And here I am, myself, counting funerals and memorials as major components of my social life these days. Seems I’ve gotten to the age where the people I care about are dropping like flies, one right after the other. I’m not yet sure how to be at peace with so much loss. But I’m learning.
Confession: Until my daughter died, anything to do with death or dying or dead bodies terrified me. I am one of those who never went to people’s funerals.
“We should spend time with our loved ones BEFORE they die,” I used to rationalize. But eight years ago I experienced tremendous love and support when hundreds from the community came out in the cold pouring rain to my daughter’s calling hours. After that, I decided to always show up and reach out to the broken-hearted bereaved.
On the event of last week’s new moon, I made another new intention: to try to view death through a lens of gratitude rather than sorrow or pain. Not sure about how to find gratitude when everyone seems to be dying, I wanted to be grateful for the time I had with my beloved-ones and for the ways they touched me. Maybe I could even be grateful for the pain—my own, and others’, since recognizing and sharing the pain is what helps us heal.
Friends and family members are going to keep on dying. This is how it’s been forever, and how it will be the longer one lives. Yet I will howl and stomp and drive off alone into the far hills mourning the loss of them, until I drop down exhausted, and then finally remember—gratitude and presence.
The rabbi officiating at my aunt’s funeral last week looked around at all of us who showed up, and said,
“Each one of you is a memorial to her life.” I remembered that, as I returned home later that day and found my front lawn dotted with bright dandelions. Memorials to life itself. Ordinary, plain, not very big or powerful, each bloom contributed to the magnificent glow welcoming me. Consoling me.
Sometimes simply being there, showing up and shining with your best intentions, can ease someone’s aching heart. And fill your own hurting heart to its capacity, gushing with the warmest gratitude.
How or where have you found gratitude during painful times? Who are you missing today?