Ever since my father died two years ago, I am more aware of death, mourning and funerals. I chuckle since my father for many years “guilted” me, and my other sisters, into attending distant relative, long-lost friend and old neighbors’ funerals. We teased him that he loved attending funeral masses because of his German Catholic heritage and fond memories of singing Latin requiem masses as a boy.
But he told me it was because funerals made him think about living a good and holy life so that others would attend his funeral.
This summer, I attended the funeral of my husband’s aunt. She was a matriarchal giant: career dietician at a local hospital, quilter, volunteer, gardener, church choir devotee and doting aunt. Hers was a generation of women pioneers who straddled two worlds: career after college while clinging to traditional female roles. I was enamored by her career and quiet domestic passions.
When a co-worker’s mother passed away last week, I knew I needed to travel seven hours to Wisconsin to attend the funeral. Somehow, it seemed right to be there for her, her family and to honor a mother who I had met only once. Here was a woman who married, had three daughters and countless grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her family was her life.
Relatives and friends told countless stories of love and legacy about these women at both funerals. Each woman knew her place in life and the value they brought to their community, church, family and friends.
By attending these two funerals, not only did I learn about comforting grieving relatives and friends, but that funerals are a time to reflect on the legacy we will all leave behind. My father was right: time to go live that good and holy life!