Sitting through the funeral yesterday was nothing short of brutal; one of the toughest hours of my life.
It’s not just about losing a friend. Of course that part is horrendous. But when it’s a friend who is your age, with a husband your age, with friends who are your friends, and children who are your children’s age, you cannot help but put yourself up there on that dais. Or worse, imagine your own children up there in the front row of chapel pews. Motherless.
I abused those tissues in my bag until they crumbled into stringy useless bits.
(I always underestimate tissue use at funerals. One day I’ll learn.)
God how I dreaded entering that funeral home. I stopped a block away, caught my breath, looked up at the glorious blue sky and wondered if I could do it. I willed myself to walk up those stairs, to trun the corner into the chapel, to plant myself in the austere pews in the comfort of old friends, forced to face forward and hear words I didn’t want to hear. And yet, I’m so very glad I did.
I had forgotten how these kinds of ceremonies often provide comfort. How there were so many points of wisdom in the thoughtful eulogies that help offer enlightenment and closure.
One of the most striking moments of the ceremony was when her own father described how anxious he was when Julie’s job took her to dangerous parts of South and Central America, forcing her to travel accompanied by bodyguards.
“You realize as a parent,” he said with remarkable strength and clarity, “that we often fear the wrong things about our children.”
It was lovely hearing person after person describe Julie’s optimism and kindness of spirit, her grace under the most heinous of circumstances for 21 months, her unwavering devotion to the relationships in her life, and her ability to effortlessly do it all.
It was unanimous: she was amazing. And she was loved.
However those of her childhood friends in attendance–and there were easily 40 or more of us–were all feeling the same thing. If you could have woven through the pews with a magic siphon and collected our thoughts, you would have seen us all grappling with our own mortality.
You just can’t help it in this situation–you put yourself in that coffin.
You think, what if it were me? Or, what if it were my wife?
And then you ask yourself, how do I want to be remembered?
Later at lunch, with ten amazing friends (thank God for amazing friends who can laugh with you as easily as they cry with you and don’t make too much fun of you for ordering a tequila shot with your wine), Sara brought up first what I know we were all thinking.
“You know, when they were describing how she always took care of her kids with a smile, entertained, volunteered, held down a high-powered job and and made it all look effortless…that wouldn’t be me.”
We all laughed. And agreed. Nope. None of us would be known for our effortless ability to do it all.
“They would say, ‘she was really good at calling the nanny on a Friday night,'” one friend quipped.
“They would say, ‘she always had dishes in the sink but at least she was fun,'” I added.
And we all laughed, as we assembled our imperfect obituaries.
I spent the rest of the night trying to answer the question in my own head. Wondering what people might say of me when I’m gone. And whether I’d be okay with it.
Have you ever thought about it? How would you like to be remembered?