This article was published in The Evening Leader on Monday, Sept 16, 2019
Over the past month, we have had a rush of funerals here at Wayne Street. That means I have been sitting with many families to plan funeral services. Those meetings are always difficult no matter what the circumstances were around their loved one’s passing but they are always joyous times too. There is always a lot of laughter and a bunch of stories. To be honest, some of the absolute best stories I hear that make me laugh the most are the ones prefaced with “now don’t say this at the service…”
A life well lived is a life filled with people and stories and adventures; it is based on core values and convictions that define a life no matter what opposition the person faced in their lives. I get a lot out of those family meetings because not only do I learn details about the life of the person, which helps me lead a celebration of their life, but I also get to watch the family speak about the person. There are times that I wish I could video our conversation together and show that for the funeral because I could never recreate the love and emotion of those family meetings. It is truly a beautiful thing.
Those meetings are such a contrast to what we are bombarded with from just about everywhere else in life. First of all, most of the family meetings are held face to face, sitting in the same room, laughing and reminiscing together with no screen between us at all, talking about all good things. Were the people who passed away perfect? Of course not, but in those funeral consultation meetings, even the bad stuff is given a positive spin. It is in those moments that we realize that it is actually our imperfections that make us unique and if we love the person, imperfections can be really endearing.
I have had many opportunities to say bad things about people and I wish I could tell you that I have always done the right thing and kept those comments to myself. But that wouldn’t be honest. I believe that a lot of the negative things we hear all the time are things we don’t really mean but we just feel them in a moment so we let them fly. It seems like we need some perspective on life to make some of that negativity melt away.
One of the things I have observed in my career is that couples who run into marital problems are otherwise generally healthy. What I mean is they are physically healthy. It seems that the strongest marriages I see are the ones where one person of the couple is ill in some way. I wonder if the illness puts all of the other gripes and aggravations into perspective. People who don’t struggle seem to direct all of their aggravations at the other person. I know this is a very simplistic way to see the world and what I am offering is completely anecdotal and not at all scientific, but this is a phenomenon that I have seen many times. The couples who have some big illness or issue between them seem to be the ones who don’t sweat the small stuff where couples who could literally have the world by the tail are the ones who can’t seem to get over themselves long enough to enjoy it.
What I would like for your take-away from this article to be is that sometimes we need to be a little more realistic about ourselves. Do our families aggravate us? Of course they do, but when you compare leaving the toilet seat up or squeezing the toothpaste from the middle rather than from the end next to a cancer diagnosis or some other actual tragedy, those minor aggravations really lose their teeth.
So don’t be afraid to see through the aggravations of the moment to appreciate the people around you. Don’t wait until you are meeting with the pastor to say nice things to someone you care about. I know that in this day and age we are all so frightened about boundaries, but it would be good for all of us if we hugged more people more often. Keeping the whole world at arm’s length is a big part of our problem. It is when we can just enjoy each other that minor aggravations can actually turn into funny stories. I watch that happen all the time in these family meetings so I know it is possible. Just don’t wait until it is too late to get some perspective on what is really important in life.