"Mom, why do have to go to the funeral? Funerals are so sad."
Yes, I was met with this question a couple of days ago as four of my children and I got ready to attend the funeral of a dear southern belle who passed this weekend. Sure, it would be nice to cover up the fact that my children questioned the reason for their required attendance and just make it look like they were willing volunteers but I'm going to be transparent as a parent here... I made them go.
I guess no one is really surprised that some of my children (or any child, for that matter) weren't jumping at the chance to go to a funeral. But maybe you're surprised that I insisted. Well I did, and here's why:
There's a lot of tragedy in this world and far too many lives snuffed out way to soon. But this funeral was for a lovely woman who lived to be 93 years young and she made each of those years count. I wanted my children to see the impact of a life well lived. I wanted them to see pictures of her throughout her life and to realize that the gray haired people they meet were kids once, too. That they had brothers and sisters and parents. And that they eventually had wedding days and babies and... life. Full, abundant life.
I wanted them to hear stories from that life. Stories that evoke laughter, fond remembrances and maybe even a few tears.
I wanted them to see that life is to be celebrated and that the end of a life that impacted others for 93 years should be especially marked with a time of pause to reflect on that impact. It is out of respect and reverence that we go to be a part of that time of reflection.
On the flip side, it was important to me that they see that a life well lived leaves a pain well felt. When someone lives their life in a way that focuses so much on others, the shock of moving on without them is hard hitting, even when that someone is ready to go home... even when that someone has lived a full and meaningful life. It's because their life was meaningful that those left behind are left with an indelible mark that brings deep sadness, no matter the circumstances surrounding their passing.
When we're young, it's easy to think that we're immortal and to only focus on the here and now. Attending this very special funeral (which was more of a celebration of life) helped my children see the full circle of life and we all need to be reminded of that. On the way to the service, I pointed out to my kids that everyone they could see in every car on the road would one day die. Everyone here on earth is only wearing a temporary suit that they will one day shed as they pass into eternity. I reminded my kids to think of that day when they trade the earthy for the eternal and to ask themselves how they want to be remembered. What would really matter then? For the friend that just passed, it was her love and devotion to the Lord that persisted in the minds of her family and friends. Her laughter, easy-going temperament and her undying service to others also remained. This was a powerful message for all of us, not just my kids.
It's easy to take the kids to the park, ball games and Chuck E. Cheese. They'll line up for those things, fighting over a seat in the car. Not so much for funerals. But, as a mom, I believe that the lessons learned from a life well lived will far outlast a day at the park or a pocketful of tokens from a pizza place's game room. I have to remember to not always go for the easy. It's in the hard that character is shaped.