Unfortunately, in the last few months, my calendar has been filled with too many visitations and funerals. As I like to say, there is no good time to lose someone you love. No matter the circumstance (long illness, short illness), it is a sad time.
Grieving is a natural part of the process when a loved one is no longer with us. It’s perfectly fine to let the tears flow and own the process. Everyone grieves in a different way; there’s no right or wrong way. In the end, we just need to make sure we take care of ourselves emotionally and physically.
There is another component to death I’ve noticed as I stand in line for a visitation or attend a funeral service. It’s our willingness to honor the person that’s gone to the next life, as well as our connection with the family members that are still with us.
I’ve come to this realization recently while standing in line for a visitation at a funeral home. Visitations are interesting in and of themselves. It’s not unusual for me to stand in line for 45 minutes to one hour before I greet the family. When we are in line, we wait patiently, perhaps visiting with friends, mostly in silence out of respect for the situation. Where else would we wait in line for one hour without the slightest bit of hesitation? It’s what we do; it’s the least we can do, actually.
I’m grateful for the concept of visitation with the family because it’s an opportunity for us to honor the person who has died, as well as show the family how much we care for them and how much we are thinking of them at that time.
Several years ago, a person at our church was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He told me that he didn’t want to die, but, he added, his horrific cancer was a blessing in one way. He never knew how many people loved him until word of his cancer prognosis was widely known. The same is true for a family when we are with the family at the visitation. There is great power in showing the family just how much we are thinking of them at this difficult time.
I’ve had the honor of giving the eulogy at more than my share of funerals. It really is an honor. My only goal is to be positive and try my best to capture that person’s spirit. Our parents told us, “if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Well, here’s another way to think about it –– if you can’t say something nice about someone, you probably aren’t looking hard enough.
For the vast majority of us, there’s much more positive than negative in our lives.
There’s something else we do for each other when a loved one passes away –– we bring food. This is a southern tradition for sure, but I suspect it happens all over our country, if not the world. In this case, it’s the perfect time for comfort food.
On one such recent occasion, my wife took a strawberry pie from Strawn’s Eat Shop Too to a friend after the loss of his wife. You may have noticed, I didn’t say my wife bought a pie from Strawn’s Eat Shop Too and took it to our friend. That’s because she didn’t pay for it. The debit card machine was not working, so the person behind the counter told my wife to leave with the pie and return at another time to pay for it.
It’s hard to believe, but it happened. If the Strawn’s manager had told my wife to go to an ATM machine and return with cash, I wouldn’t have been shocked. I wouldn’t even have blamed him; but he didn’t and so, my wife left with the strawberry pie and a promise to return. Just for the record, I returned to Strawn’s Eat Shop Too to take care of the pie payment.
The manager is now our hero. He didn’t know us, and he had no idea if we would return or not. His faith in humanity was amazing, and we will never forget his customer-first mentality, not to mention his kindness.
That’s what we do for each other in these situations, whether it’s visitation, funeral or just buying a pie for a friend. We make a choice, and our choice is to give each other the dignity, respect and kindness we all deserve.