There is nothing like a funeral to put you in mind of dying.
Especially the funeral you find yourself at when you do not know the person who died.
As you sit in the memorial service, packed with people you don’t know, talking about the accomplishments and good qualities of the man who died, you start to think.
Thinking about – when your time comes – who will be sitting in the audience at your memorial service. Who will speak on your behalf to express a lifetime worth of thanks to those you have known, respected, revered and loved throughout your life.
And how many people would there be?
Would the room be overflowing with people who respected, revered and loved you?
As I sat in the funeral parlor’s memorial service room listening to all the great things being said about our neighbor Ed, I felt bad that I did not ever make the effort to meet this man. I didn’t know anything about Ed until he passed.
And I felt very guilty.
I can do better than that.
Another person I could have learned from slipped right by me.
Another missed opportunity.
And now it’s too late.
Ed was a musician. That much I knew. As part of the therapy to recover from a stroke he had over the summer, Ed frequently played the bongos. You could hear them over the fence as we sat in the summer time heat in our back yard on the deck by the pool.
And Ed was very good. We would actually turn the radio off and just listen to Ed.
And that is all I knew of Ed.
I rarely saw Ed, only the odd time to see his head poking above the fence when he cut the lawn in the summers before his stroke.
But Ed made me do some big thinking today.
Ed died of a massive coronary heart attack last week. We awoke one cold rainy morning to the red and white and blue lights of ambulances and fire trucks and police cars shining through the sliding glass door that leads to our back yard.
Ed left this world early.
And when you see people leave this world early, you can’t help but reflect on the state of your own lifestyle.
I am over weight.
I have the odd drink.
I cannot run up the stairs. But I have been taking the stairs more often at work, all three flights – to go out and have a smoke.
Now as I sit a year and a handful of months from reaching the age of fifty, I take this thought seriously.
I have two little girls, and a lovely wife, and wonderful home.
And what would my faithful black lab Suzy ever do without me.
Does age quicken its pace to catch up to us? Or do we simply slow down to let age catch up?
And what have I really done to inspire people to take time out of their day – spend an otherwise luxurious Saturday morning off work – to come to a memorial service for my passing?
I remember when my Dad passed away in September of 1990. He and my Mom had moved to Pensacola for nicer weather after Dad fell ill in 1983. No family lived in Pensacola, and his sickness did not lend itself to a social lifestyle. So when Dad passed, a man of significant status in his professional life, a man who many have told me inspired them with his leadership – there was no memorial service. Just a brief visitation of the shell of my Dad lying on a gurney as my Uncle Fred, Aunt Sheila, my brother Paul and his family, and my Mom and I stepped in for a few final moments alone with him, before he was to be cremated.
When my Uncle Fred passed two decades later, the small country church in Ilderton, Ontario was overflowing with people. And wonderful words were said. The same happened when my Aunt Sheila passed only a few short years later.
But that being said, the most memorable experience of my life came the summer following my Dad’s passing. On my Mom’s first visit back to Canada since Dad passed, she brought Dad’s ashes with her.
My Uncle Fred and Aunt Sheila, my Mom and I hopped in Fred’s big white Crown Victoria and we took a drive with ashes. We went to the beautiful little town of Goderich on Lake Huron. There was a long point there with a lighthouse on the end of it.
Dad used to love to sit and look at this sight as the sun set.
So we marched out there in the mid-evening and we spread Dad’s ashes around the point by light house.
It was a beautiful summer night. The kind Dad loved.
And as we pulled out of the parking lot of the old fashioned little town with freshly cut grass and trimmed hedges, we passed a sign pasted to a wooden telephone pole.
“Steak and Lobster Dinner“
A local church was having a steak and lobster dinner.
Steak and Lobster was Dad’s favorite meal.
So we pulled in. And we ate the most perfectly barbecued steaks, and savored the most sumptuous lobster tails drenched in butter that one could ever hope to find in any restaurant. And we sat and talked about how Dad would have found this to be a perfect end to a perfect day of sailing.
It were as though Dad had held that dinner just for us.
So in the end, I only hope that those who might take the time to remember me have such fortune as we did that beautiful summer’s night in Goderich remembering my father.
Who could ask for more than that?