I haven’t been to a funeral in years. I guess I’m lucky. Well, at least in that it’s been a while. I’ve been to quite a few funerals in my life with most of them being before the end of my high school days. People that I now barely remember in blurry memories, forgotten pictures and a whiff of smell now and then. People that I wish I could talk to once more. Learn from them. Share with them. Tell them how much they meant to me. But that is the nature of loss, remorse and regret. And the forgetting? That is the nature of humans.
Tonight I attended the funeral of one of my father-in-laws. Well not necessarily a funeral. More of a memorial. There was no service planned. He had been cremated so the only reminder of him was the hundreds of pictures throughout the room and the innocuous green marble container with his name written on it. I know people were planning on getting up and telling stories or just telling others how they felt. My wife among them. I didn’t get to stay to hear those speeches because I had to take Kira back home. It was getting close to bed time and she was starting to fade into crabby-land. It was expected – no regrets.
The crowd that I had to excuse myself was enormous. Everyone loved him and everyone he met considered him their friend. He was a great guy. There were people from every walk of life present it seemed. Including appearances by my families which I didn’t even expect. It was nice. My wife did a great job of putting together a very nice slideshow and I compiled the background music. But the important thing was the people.
People need to be able to grieve. And they all do it a little differently. I remember thinking at one point yesterday or the day before: why are my mother-in-law and wife doing all this work to put all this together for this memorial? Why put yourself through the heartache of rummaging through hundreds of photos, editing digital pictures, creating slideshows, picking out music, spending hours at the funeral home deciding on so many many options? Why do so much?
Because it keeps you busy. It keeps your mind working on something… anything… and gives you a goal. It makes those first few days bearable by numbing the mind and the heart by keep them preoccupied with so many other details and tasks. Anything to keep those closest to the departed from collapsing into uncontrollable fits of sobbing or crawling in bed to emerge days later.
So who is the memorial for? It’s not for the deceased – it’s for the survivors. The people who don’t understand why what has happened had to happen the way it did. The people whose lives will never be completely the same no matter what their connection. The people who will, over the years, gradually start to realize that those cherished memories are starting to become blurry around the edges. It’s their nature. It’s how we stay relatively sane. We’re only human.
Larry Shake you will be missed my friend. Take care, watch over us and don’t be sad. We’ll see you soon enough.