Friday, December 30, 2011

Always Go To The Funeral

    I have been reminded recently that the most meaningful moments in life are found far more often in the walks through the dark valleys, not the meadows ( I place a lot of the blame at the feet of Odd Thomas).  The lifeless stones and hard despair of the valleys - sickness, death, poverty, loneliness -  are meant to make us all look up to the source of light and life; meadows are so flooded with both that we eventually begin to notice the flowers more than the sun. 
     That's not the flower's fault, or course, or the meadow's.  Beauty and peace are two of God's best gifts to the world. The importance of the tangible blessings of friends, family, health, comfort, and love cannot be overstated. We minimize the importance of these "glimpses of heaven" at our peril.  
      But there is a part of human nature that cannot stay in the meadows for too long, or we forget to look up.  Even worse, we begin to resent those who need us to follow them into the valleys and walk with them out of the darkness.  
     From the December 2011 issue of First Things:
"You can't come in without going out, kids. Always go to the funeral."  So Deirdre Sullivan's father taught her.... Going to funerals was partly a duty and partly a matter of learning to do things for others when doing them wasn't convenient, like going to 'the painfully under- attended birthday party' and visiting someone in the hospital during happy hour.
    It bears fruit, this discipline. When she was sixteen, she went to the funeral home by herself, unwillingly, for her fifth-grade math teacher. 'It was worse than I thought it would be; I was the only kid there.  When the condolence line deposited me in front of Miss Emerson's shell-shocked parents, I stammered out, "Sorry about all this," and walked away.  But, for the deeply weird expression of sympathy delivered twenty years ago, Miss Emerson's mother still remembers my name and always says hello with tearing eyes."
     If, by God's grace, I can lay claim to similar legacy - that people say hello with tearing eyes because I was willing to enter the valleys of their lives and walk with them -  I will consider my life to have been lived well. 


  1. Romans 12:15-16 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly." Sometimes the "lowly" is not the poor homeless person, but the person who is in a weak, beaten time of their life. I try to love all my friends and family, but believe me, I know those I can call on in hard times, those who will love me well when I am at my worst. I also know those who can't or won't go there with me. Doesn't mean I don't love them, I mean no judgment toward them, I just know not to call them because for whatever reason, they don't have it, so I don't ask for it. And I'm sure there are those who feel the same about me.

  2. It's a challenge for all of us, isn't it? We rejoice with others a lot more easily than we weep. I increasingly think that those who empathize well have a gift from God.