Tag Archives: John Donne

Go to the funeral.

Not for laughs today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with smiles!

Today I went to a funeral. A really sad funeral. This beautiful man was kind, generous, an asset to his community, a treasure to his family and friends and a piece of the world that should have been here for a long time. He was felled by ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was unbearably fast and cruel. He was 59 years old.

So many people were there. I waited in line for over an hour to pay my respects. That’s how many people went to the funeral. But I’m certain there are those who did not come because they ‘don’t go to funerals.’ I know there are thousands of reasons for staying away from a funeral, but there are a million reasons to go to the funeral.

When you go to the funeral, you get and give hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Hugs have been scientifically proven to make your life better. You get hugs from people you don’t know and people you do know. It doesn’t matter. It’s hugs. And these are good hugs. People want to connect. People want to share their sorrow, grief or even their discomfort. The sharing is the best part. Because it’s that kind of hug, it’s serious and comforting.

When you go to the funeral, you see people you haven’t seen for a long time. It might be cousins, aunts, uncles, old high school friends, kids from the neighborhood, their moms and dads, long lost acquaintances, all will be there. And you will be glad to see them. Connecting to your past feels good. You remember the shared times and it reminds you that you’ve been alive for a long time. You’ve touched a lot of lives and you’ve been touched by many others. It reinforces your connection to humanity. You’ve been human for a while and you might have forgotten that—just look how many people you have met and mingled with since you were a toddler.

You might not be ‘of a mind’ with these people but even that’s reaffirming. You made choices. You made a life for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met has had a hand in that. At the funeral, you get to remember that you are a part of it all, and you owe a debt of gratitude to your life and everyone in it.

“Paying your respects,” should not be taken lightly. As someone who has been to many funerals, both as part of the family and as just a member of the community, let me assure you showing up is important. When you show up, you are saying, “I’m sorry this hurts right now” or “I know the long haul was unspeakable for you, may you find comfort in days to come,” or “wow, your loved one lived a long and wonderful life, let me help you celebrate.” By foregoing this opportunity you forego a piece of yourself. You will want that when it’s your turn. You have an internal connection that gives you the grace to connect with all the kind people who have come to your loved one’s funeral.

And you will have a turn. Unless you’re a hermit, it is doubtful that you will get out unscathed. You will have to go to a funeral sooner or later, and probably not just your own. If you skip your Grandma’s funeral because you’re too sad, or your uncle’s funeral because he wasn’t your favorite person, or you’re best friend’s funeral because you are too emotional, or your mom’s or dad’s funeral because they were imperfect, or you loved them so very much you “don’t want to remember them that way,” you not only fail to pay your respects to your loved one and the community that was so important to them, you fail to connect to your own humanity. By taking your own vulnerability and sharing in everyone else’s vulnerability, you increase the goodness. You make us all better. You make you better. You are kind, you are good, you are compassionate.

This one little thing, going to the funeral, has such deep implications for humanity. Just ask John Donne… in 1624 he didn’t say go to the funeral, but he might as well have…..

No [one] is an island, entire of itself; every [one] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: [anyone’s]’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in [humankind], and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” Adapted from John Donne

©2017 Cathy Sikorski