Just Between Us



Published:

The Ultimate Ceremony

Finding Life Inspiration in Death


By Gina Jaber

    Over the past six months, I’ve been to more funerals than I am happy to announce. The situation is made slightly more bearable because most of the deceased were elderly, and most of the services were really celebrations—though that’s not the case with all of them. Regardless of the age of the departed or the cause of death, I’ve left each funeral altered and inspired—my appreciation for life deepened, my love for family and friends multiplied exponentially.
    Funerals are occasions that no one looks forward to and many dread. Ironically, though, such ceremonies often have a direct and positive impact, more acute than weddings or graduations. The net effect is a greater awareness, a heightened sense of who we are and what we aim to be. Sitting through a service, reading the funeral program, listening to the family and friends of the deceased eulogizing, hearing the music chosen to mark just such an occasion, how could one not explore big questions such as his own purpose on earth and his own direction? It seems impossible.
    What usually happens to me is that I attend a funeral and am, like most people, moved to a renewed appreciation of how finite this life is. Death is real, and life is urgent. I exit the experience determined to live better and do more. For days, I recall the powerful words and the emotions that filled the room. And then, slowly, over time, the intensity of it fades; the power wears off.
    For a long time, I used to be disappointed in myself for losing that elevated state of awareness. I’ve tried to hold on to the increased wakefulness brought on by sorrow. But in human fashion, willingly or not, it becomes a paler thought, a fainter concern not at the forefront of my mind.
    More recently, it has occurred to me that this lapse is actually good news—that while I am consciously absorbing and retaining the lessons learned, I am not dwelling too long on how and why those lessons came to me. This, I think, is a blessing: personal growth, coupled with an ability to move on.
    Keeping optimistic, I like the idea of funerals being celebrations, positive experiences encouraging those in attendance not to wallow but rather to cheer for the departed whose life is being honored.
    I hope it is a very long time before I attend another funeral service—celebration or not. Still, I am grateful for the ones I have recently attended. They gave me the opportunity to stop and think about important things, things that matter—for a while anyway.
    E-mail Gina Jaber at ginajab@yahoo.com.