Putting Everything in Perspective

There is something about a funeral that puts everything else into perspective. In the past week I have attended two of them.

They were two very different memorials for two great men who had much in common. Both drank deeply from the cup of life, had many friends and an enduring love for their family. Both men faced debilitating illness with stoicism, good humour and remarkable dignity.

They both left behind sons and daughters, of whom they could be very proud, who will grieve over their loss but will be comforted by the many happy memories they shared.

Despite what they had in common in life, their final memorials were starkly different. The services were different, not simply because of the character of the men themselves but because of their respective beliefs. One funeral had a religious element whilst the other was decidedly secular.

For people of faith, attending the funeral service of a friend who had no belief in an afterlife can be a rather challenging affair. It is somewhat comforting to think that while your friend’s earthly remains lay still, their soul endures in the eternal glory of God. Instead, one is left to contemplate only the earthly deeds of the deceased, often asking if what they left behind was evidence of a life well lived.

In respect to my two friends, their legacy and wonderful contribution from their years on Earth is not only evidenced in their beautiful children and grandchildren, but in the wonderful memories they left with their many, many friends and the generosity they showed.

A common thread of both funerals was the encouragement of all mourners to reflect on the experiences shared with the deceased. It is through these memories that our friends and loved ones continue to live with us – regardless of their commitment to faith.

In contemplating the relative finality of death and sharing the grief of loss with family and friends, we can often be reminded of what is truly important. 

We often spend too much time worrying about the things we cannot change, getting upset over trivialities and consequently failing to enjoy some of the most precious aspects of the life available to us.

In the final tribute, no one will be celebrating how much money one made or how many monuments were built. The service will always be about the people with whom you shared your life, the good you did with the resources you had and the love you gave to those who needed it.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, there is something about a funeral that puts everything in perspective. It is just a pity that it takes such an event to remind us of that.

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