I did something today that I’ve done a lot over the years. I attended a funeral. I used to have a very large family and so when you add up the loss of grandparents, great grandparents, uncles and aunts, great uncles and aunts, cousins, and my own father, the family alone accounts for many of the services. And then when I also include times of supporting friends and coworkers in their moments of grief and loss… I’m sure I’ve been to well over 50 funerals in my 35 years.
To some that may not be many, to others it’s a lot. I am only 35 though and to have had the privilege of celebrating a person’s life all those times already, I do feel blessed. Blessed you ask? Yes, you read that right. I feel tremendously blessed.
You see, while we are on this earth we are meant for heartbreak, for pain, and for suffering. But these beautiful people that have passed from this life into their next, they no longer have heartbreak, or pain, or suffering. These people are the kind who I’ve admired in life, who I have seen walk through some difficult things. These are strong people, sweet people, generous people, lovely people. And to be a part of the day that celebrates those qualities in each of them and the difficult, yet graceful lives they lived… and then having the sweet knowledge that they no longer have the struggle of this earth on their shoulders… it is truly an honor.
Today, that honor was for a friend’s father who passed a few days ago after a battle with cancer. It was a wonderful service full of cherished memories of this man who had been a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a friend, a coworker, and a fellow church member.
A couple of precious moments from the service really stayed with me throughout the day though. The first was the remembrance of one of his lifelong friends and how he recalled the generosity and genuine fellowship that was bestowed on him by the deceased over the years. But more specifically during a time of hardship. He said his friend had reached out to him, pursued him through his valley. At a time when all he wanted to do was retreat from the world, he had this dear friend who wouldn’t let him completely disappear. By engaging him, inviting him over, chatting with him… he never let his friend feel alone. As the man talked, he teared up, and honestly, so did I. What a precious story to be told, and such a sweet gift of memory to give to his family who loved him so.
The second moment was by another friend who spoke about how life was too short and we should never go a day without telling our friends and loved ones just how much we do love and care about them. He went on about how we never know how many mornings we get in this life and how since we all woke up this morning, we’re already “one less morning”…
I thought about these words as they were spoken. While its something we hear often, phrases like, “We’re never promised tomorrow” and “Life has no guarantees,” something about the way he phrased it in that particular way today just seemed to sink in differently. “One less morning.” It’s a different way to look at the fact that anything can happen at any time and we should appreciate every minute. Developing a sense of urgency about these remarkable gifts given in 24 hours increments is something that I know I need to do. I need to possess a fire for the day because I’m already “one less morning.”
These men, while not charismatic or particularly polished at public speaking, both spoke from the heart. They honored their friend. They celebrated his life and his character. They touched me.
In the dozens of funerals I’ve had the privilege of attending over the years I have found that the celebration of someone’s amazing life is also a gift of time set aside for reflection on my own. With my own brother sitting by my side throughout the service, I felt very blessed. I am blessed to have known these precious souls. I am blessed to be able to celebrate them and to honor them and their memory. I am blessed because each one gives me the opportunity to look at the world and myself a little differently. And I am blessed because I can learn from them, even in death, that each day is “one less morning” and each day is remarkable and should be lived to the fullest surrounded by those you love most.