"Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time ... It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other." ~ Leo F. Buscaqlia
This weekend has already been a doozy, and it's not even over yet. Friday, hubby -- who will be called "J" from here on -- and I went to a funeral for his great aunt, who was one of the nicest women I've ever met.
I've been to many funerals, but nothing compares to a small-town funeral. Sitting amongst 150 of her closest friends and family in an outdoor tabernacle in the middle of a green pasture, we listened to story after story of how this courageous 68-year-old woman overcame depression, a life-threatening car accident and brain cancer to make a lasting impact on her church, her family, coworkers, on everyone.
I watched as one of her sons sat quietly with his wife and two children, softly dabbing his eyes with tissue, trying to make it through the service knowing that he hadn't been there when she died. My heart broke for her husband, now suddenly alone after 53 years of marriage. 53 years. I can't begin to fathom the heartache he must be enduring.
J and I held each other, listening to the memories, bowing our heads in prayer. A breeze whispered through the big oak trees, the cows sang their own sympathies, and the butterflies danced around the dozens of colorful flower arrangements that had been sent from friends and family, the local diners, nearly every resident in the town.
After the service, we all met inside the small church to sit and talk about old times, while the ladies of the church prepared lunch -- fried chicken, green beans, homemade biscuits and pies -- for all 150 of us. Packed into a small room, we all sat elbow-to-elbow, and there wasn't a stranger in the place by the time we left hours later.
Sometimes I think we get so caught up in rushing around, that it was nice to actually slow down for awhile, allowing time to contemplate life and loss. When my Granddad died last Christmas, his service was crammed into a thirty minute window at the military cemetery near my home. It wasn't our choice, just how the place handled services. As we left, another family was rushing in to bury their young son who had been killed in Iraq -- it just didn't seem right.
I had more time to think this time. As we left J's great aunt's funeral, I was bombarded with a series of internal questions. What would people say at my funeral? Have I lived my life to the fullest? Am I wasting time? What impact have I made on others? What higher purpose can I serve?
I began to discover a few of those answers Saturday morning ...