When I was young, and 75% of the people at a funeral were older than me, I noticed that the older they were, the less likely they were to cry. I wondered why.
My first answer was “generational.” The old people of my youth were tough, and they brought their toughness with them, even to funerals.
Now 75% of the attendees are younger than me, but it still holds, that thing about the old people not crying at funerals.
It has to be more than just generational.
Dry Eyes For My Parents
I didn’t cry at my mother or my father’s funeral. That wasn’t generational.
The new answer was “experience.” Funerals hurt, but by the time I’m burying my father, I’d known serious hurts, plural. For me it was this way: 1) the first hurt is the worst hurt; 2) I could hurt differently, but never the same; and O the surprise, to find that 3) the pain ends.
Yes, the pain ends. That first one, I remember using words like “amputated,” and “felt like I’d swallowed a grenade,” but the first hurt heals in its mysterious somehow, someway, and so does the next one, and the next one. After a while, it’s not a maybe. You don’t even have to understand healing; just expect it. The sun comes out again.
Headed To Headstone
I’m “only” my age, but I wonder, what I’ll think and feel in twenty years. I feel 20 years more mortal than I did 20 years ago. How much more mortal awaits me?
Back when my uncle was late 70’s, I asked my cousin, “What’s your daddy do these days?” She smiled, said, “He goes to funerals.” Sure, funerals have a social and reunion aspect, but it must feel like being on a generational conveyor belt, the one after the other, everyone your age headed to headstone…
And maybe that’s part of why the old people don’t cry much at funerals. They’ve had time to get it settled. I cannot imagine how an atheist handles death, but for people of my faith, somewhere, especially when it’s nearer than farther, people have to make the for-real vote, Do I believe in life after, or was I just two cheeks taking up a seat on the pew…
Those dry eyes, those are settled eyes. They’ve voted.
This Was A Two Funeral Week
First one, age 89, that’s its own kind of thing.
The second one, 40-year-old man, wife, three daughters, that’s a different script…
I still didn’t think I’d cry. Why?
There’s another level past trusting that pain ends. You gotta live long enough, and pay attention, goes like this:
Level two: not only do we heal from hurt, we grow from hurt. All my big, heavy duty hurts, whether I’m victim or I brought it on myself, doesn’t matter the Who or the How, but always, there’s a gain in the loss.
It might not be apparent for years – even decades – but it’s there, to be revealed.
I still have the word “tragedy” in my dictionary, but I do not sling the word carelessly. I’ve experienced enough, in my own life, either directly, or eye witnessed, to trust the process, that gain wins over pain, that growth regrows in loss, that impossible is made available by the loss of possible.
It feels too intricate, butterfly wings, not to be of God. There’s subtlety, balance, and timing, miracles in miniature.
Being a farm kid, I get the sow ‘n reap thing. You plant in torn soil. You harvest later. One seed becomes many…
Salute The Worthy
Before the service of the young man I made a bathroom run. Saw some tissue, snagged a handful, just in case…
It was a “personal” service, in the best way. Several speakers, friends, co-workers, full hearts, the wrestle with words and feelings, his wife spoke, her last two lines, something about their “dances in the kitchen” would one day be “dances in the kingdom.”
The songs, Though He Slay Me (ooof!), Go Rest High On That Mountain (always gets me), Come to Jesus (my goodness)… but not once did I reach for my hidden tissues.
We line up for the goodbye march past the casket. He was a police officer. Had a rare cancer. Two-year warning. I usually look at my elders for role model stuff, but here this guy was, decades younger, handled this Whole Thing, from diagnosis to death, like a solid man, dined on every day, mealed on every moment.
I hugged his wife, and then there he was, horizontal from now to the Rapture. On impulse I shot him a little salute. That moment was my truth. He earned it.
That moment almost got me.
Many Decades From Now
I’m on an outer orbit, with this family. It disqualifies me from measuring the loss. But I hold to my loss-has-a-gain. It’s not faith; it’s proven. In no way do I mean to disrespect the loss, only wish to hint forward, to all the Later On and After and Because and In Spite Of, that will be revealed in God’s timing.
His daughters lost their father. But they also saw the best of their father, in the test of their father. This terminal diagnosis path, this was life on the blade edge. He faced, he fought, he stood, he accepted, and they saw. This was not faith in winks and words, they saw faith taken to the literal end.
There is great power in this. They immediately ascend the maturity ladder, the perspective ladder, the ready-for-life ladder, the knowing-what-matters ladder.
I have every confidence, that many decades from now, they’ll be the old people at the funerals, who don’t need a tissue. By then, the wheel will have cycled around, and the good of this bad will be revealed, and they’ll get it, own it, the intricate, mysterious ways of God, and they’ll think of it as just-for-them Treasure.
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to the mysteries of God. Graveside service, the young preacher speaks on Genesis 1, the creation, how God spoke things into existence, no labor, just said Let There Be, and there it was, until he got to man… He slows down from God labor to manual labor just to make us, takes dust and forms us with His hands, breathes into us, showing us the value we hold in His eyes.
Uncle P can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.