February 19, 2017


Many seniors live in our immediate area, so we have funerals fairly often. We attend even if we haven’t known the deceased well, to acknowledge our neighbor relationship and to support the family by our good will and presence. Often we are surprised.


Funerals we attend nowadays seem to be more interesting because they are a little less formal. Many times the tears are equally tears of laughter. We celebrate a graduation to a wonderful heavenly future using the talents, patience and character they have developed. We hear secrets that we would never have dreamed of the aging soul we have shaken hands with for twenty years. We have seen that lined face and graying hair without an inkling of the former prankster, athlete, adventurer, dreamer, nut or speed demon who developed (at least outwardly) into a respectable Senior Citizen.


Recently we learned that someone was a hero in the Dutch resistance to the Nazis. Later he built a boat, a plane, and a helicopter in his garage over the years. No, he didn’t die in a crash. He was a master machinist. He was a husband, father, and friend. We didn’t know him because we had not been engaged with him in a personal way.


Most of us are hidden from view unless we are publicized or have our “fifteen minutes of fame.” We live what seem ordinary lives. We are all just doing the best we can and seldom do we have a story that gets into the headlines. We don’t commit crimes, foment protest rallies for the media or scandalize others with our quirks. Our reputations in the working world are for honesty and integrity. Of course, we made mistakes and did stupid things, but at a funeral most of that is erased by what time and experience have helped us become. Most of us don’t even want to attract widespread attention.


At our funeral, those who didn’t know us well may be amazed at the kindnesses we showed, the helpfulness, vitality, faith, courage and even heroism in our lives. Moreover, they will learn that we have been funny, have done some crazy things, have suffered and healed, have rescued others and been rescued, all in relative invisibility to an outer world.


So Gary and I attend the funerals of people in our ward or parish and find ourselves wishing we had known them, wishing we had appreciated them before it was too late. Strange, isn’t it, to become friends with memories, to miss presences that we haven’t really known? PMA