The first time I remember being cognizant of funerals was when my Grandma Anderson passed away when I was nine years old. She and Grandpa had moved to California from Minnesota a few years earlier to be closer to my mom, a nurse, so she could help Grandma with some medical problems she was having. We kids spent a lot of time with Grandpa and Grandma during that time, stopping by their house on the way home to watch Grandpa tinker in his watch repair shop and visiting with Grandma who was confined to a wheelchair. Holidays we would all be together, usually at our house less than a mile away. I was very sad when I was told that she had died, but I told my folks that I would rather go to school than attend the funeral. And so I did.
The first funeral I ever remember attending was that of a co-worker in the Parks department who was shot and killed while on duty. I was 23 years old and he a bit older. Later that summer I was attending another funeral. This time it was for my brother Roger who was killed on his motorcycle driving home from work when a car pulled out in front of him. He was just 24 years old. Needless to say it was one of the darkest periods of my life. In the nearly four decades since my brother’s funeral, I have gone to only a handful of other funerals, and most of those I really couldn’t avoid like those of my parents and my husband’s parents.
It’s hard to explain exactly why I am not fond of funerals. As a rule, I am a pragmatic person and recognize that death is an unfortunate part of life. It is, of course, more difficult for me to deal with the death of a young person who has not had the opportunity to experience life and fulfill their dreams. I know that a funeral can be a way for many people to find closure, to honor the life of the deceased, or to show support to the family. I just would like to remember my friends and family as they were when they were alive. I believe that there is life after death and so I don’t think that a funeral is the “last goodbye” but rather a milepost along the way.
I prefer to honor and show my support for my friends and family by finding ways to keep in touch with them while they are still living and breathing. I believe it is important to make the time to be with those people that you care about and who make your life richer for the relationship. Visit when you can. When that isn’t possible communicate through phone calls, emails and letters. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers. In this way, whether or not you are able to attend their funeral when the time comes you should have no regrets.