This last week, people who I love, lost people they loved. Since my church is a very small church it pretty much affects everyone when someone dies. In a small community, same thing. We are from both a tiny church and a small town. The people who were grieving were people who I consider really good friends. I didn’t know the deceased very well, if at all, but I certainly know their relatives.
And yet, I didn’t go to the funerals.
As a Pastor’s Wife, I am probably expected to go to the funerals of everyone that passes in this town, or at the very least of parishioners past and present. For the last five years, I have had the valid reason that I had four small children and I didn’t want to bring them to funerals. They would most likely disrupt the peaceful proceedings or become distraught because of the nature of the event. Either way, I had an “out”.
My children are not that small any longer. They have learned (mostly) to sit for an hour in church and they do relatively well. Also, I think they could process what is going on as we have a very open dialogue with them about almost anything, death included. I could have gone to the funerals.
But I didn’t.
The first one, this week, I could have said that the “storm of the century” kept me from it, except that almost every person that attended that funeral was from out-of-town or from the town and they made it. They plowed through drifts the size of houses, some of them, and made it to the event. I’m from town so I had no excuse. The hall, where it was held, is about one block from my house…maybe two if you are going to be technical.
Except, my daughter was not feeling well. She had called home from school three days this week with intermittent abdominal pain. I didn’t know what to do about her pain and knew it was probably not appendicitis, but wondered anyways. I didn’t want to make her sit through the service…at least that’s what I told myself.
The second funeral was on a bright, beautiful winter/spring day. My kids were mostly well and so was I.
But I still didn’t go.
I wrestled with myself all day about it. ALL DAY. I found myself wanting to support my friends at their time of loss, yet I did not want to go. With all that was in me, I did not want to go.
So I curled in a ball and thought about it. I wondered what was up with me? If it were ME experiencing a loss, no matter if we knew that the loved one was expected to pass on or not, my friends would be there for me. Even if I did not know that sweet lady personally, I should have/could have gone.
When we buried our son, sixteen years ago, no one knew him except for us, and yet, many people showed up to say farewell.
I realized, with clarity, why I was struggling so. I have had to say `good-bye`to a lot of loved ones. Not only have I had to say good-bye to my grandparents, like most of us have to do during our lifetimes, but I have had to bury my brother, my son, my brother-in-law, a friend, an elder in our church, a father of two…the list goes on. I’ve attended funerals as a Pastor’s Wife many times. Sometimes it was when tragedy struck, sometimes it was when the death was expected, at the end of a long life.
Either way, God built me to be highly empathetic. This is both a strength and an incredible weakness at times. I have the ability to feel what others feel. When someone grieves, I grieve. When someone is happy I am ecstatic. Loss makes me so sad.
I realized that I’ve buried a lot of people. No, I’m not mafia.
See? I can see humor, even in loss.
Grief has taught me that. It’s also taught me to be even more empathetic that I naturally was. I don’t shy away from talking about grief, sadness or loss with people. I am well acquainted with it.
Funerals, though? When it’s someone who I know and love it’s hard enough. When it’s someone I don’t know, I still weep. I weep for those that have lost. I don`t weep for the dead because they are dead. What`s done is done. I cry for the pain others are going through.
So, I could have gone to the funerals this week. I should have. My friends would do that for me. I know it. And it saddens me that I allowed my own feelings of past grief to prevent me from supporting them this way. I know that they understand me, maybe better than I understand myself, and I am that much more thankful for my friends.
I am blessed to be here, with these people.