My weekly column in all its glory:
No, I did not really attend three weddings and a funeral over the Easter weekend, but it was a weekend of stark contrasts and surprising similarities. Saturday morning, I attended the funeral of an aunt who was in her 99th year; in the afternoon, I attended a baby shower. Grief in its many guises is a necessity of this life. Happiness at the hope of new birth is on the other end of the spectrum. But at both ceremonies, the emphasis was on the celebration of life–one just past, one future.
At the funeral, I was surrounded by cousins—first, second, and third—a son and daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge plays in my head. I am now grateful for family—it is something I so long took for granted. As my parents’ generation slowly bids us goodbye—we are left as the heads of the family—not a mantle I necessarily want, but one I am willing to don because I have to. I once thought that you “got over it” when someone you loved died. I now know that is not true. But you do get through it. That horrible first realization of loss does wane, but it never withers. And I think we are not meant to forget.
The baby shower was a wonderful celebration. Though it should not be important—the food was good—but it was wonder and magic that really reigned. So many gifts—so lovingly wrapped with such great forethought of the pleasure the recipient would take in unwrapping the gift to reveal another necessity or toy or book for the baby. And did I use the word “reveal”? There was a reveal of the baby’s gender—with both parents unwrapping the box slowly that contained the balloons that would tell them whether it was a boy or girl. It was fun to watch their reactions—before, during, and after. They wanted to know—but not too fast—and when the pink balloons rose out of the box they were thrilled (just as thrilled as they would have been if it had been a boy.)
Life is multi-tiered. The end of life for those of us who harken back to our simpler Sunday School days of certain religions, are satisfied that death is merely a doorway to a different life—one we can only imagine. It is not time for skepticism for some of us. I imagine my aunt, who was my mom’s sister, is now reunited with her sisters and brother and husband and parents in heaven. Do not mock my simplistic view—it may not hold me in good stead all the time, but for now it comforts me.
The start of a new life is a new beginning. Definitely new for the baby, but a new life for the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They are welcoming someone new into the ever-widening arms of their family. With each new birth, there is hope and dreams and love. What could be more wonderful than that?
I have grown to appreciate funerals in whatever form they take. Small and personal. Medium and large with visitation. No service at all. A small graveside service. Or bigger celebrations of life. They are all valid. But what they all have in common is the remembrance of the loved one. Cherished memories are shared. And laughter. Yes, laughter. It seems so incongruent—but it is probably the biggest wish of the one who has just left this earth that we be happy. Not happy that they are gone, but happy that they were a part of our lives.
Over the weekend, I said goodbye to my aunt. I do not know what journey she will be on, but I comfort myself that in some form, she is still making that trek crossing into worlds unknown. I said hello to the prospect of a new baby girl, to be born in a few weeks to loving parents, and a community welcoming her to our world.
Contrasts. Similarities. Lives diverge–we interact, we love, we bear loss, we welcome new life. What we have to remember is that the big things in life are precipitated by the little things. And they are all important. The celebrations of life are what we look forward to—though the celebration of a life past is a lot harder than the celebration of a new life joining our ranks.
I comfort myself knowing no one can take away my memories—and I am happy that new ones are created everyday. Saturday was a day of goodbyes and hellos. I am glad I was able to partake and share in the celebrations of a life completed and a life just beginning.