Today I managed to go to a funeral of a man who I did not even know but who apparently was not that different of a person from myself, whether it is in his use of short phrases like “yup” or in his hostility to slow traffic. I was at the funeral because I had the time, and because I happened to know the man’s son, even if I have not seen much of the son or daughter-in-law, who had been adopted as a sort of daughter as well by this particular family. As someone who is very familiar with the phenomenon of being adopted as an outsider , I appreciate seeing other people who are quick to look after others who are strangers and outsiders.
It is an unusual thing to go to the funeral of someone one does not know, although this is a case where I sought to honor the living rather than the dead by being present in a serious time as a comforter. It does seem a bit ironic that I should find the last few days as providing opportunities for catching up with old friends in a variety of circumstances, but it is a comfort to catch up with friends regardless of the occasion, whether one is mourning with those who mourn or rejoicing with those who rejoice. As it happens, I have at least a fair amount of experience going to funerals, and find a sober reflection on the end of life and its repercussions on the living to be fruitful as I have pondered over my own life.
While waiting for the funeral to begin at the graveside memorial service, I saw a gravestone in a family plot of a man named Kim. Sadly, he appeared to have lived a short life, being born in 1954 and dying in 1980. I wondered what story was behind his early demise, or the relationship between his life and the beautiful hills and and forests of Oregon that were portrayed on the elaborate bronze work of the gravestone, or the relationship between him and the member of his family with the same surname just above his stone for a naval serviceman who had died in 2012 (perhaps a son?). These sorts of questions and puzzles and mysteries catch my attention, as the death of a young man, particularly one of such an ambiguous nickname, would appear to require some sort of story which I know nothing of.
It was, of course, fascinating for me to witness the goings on at the funeral as well, being a stranger to most of the people there. As it happens, I got to see people act with a great deal of graciousness, for the most part (aside from a pert young woman who was quite disrespectful to her father), despite less than ideal circumstances. It is sad when family only gets to know each other upon the death of a loved one that brings others together, but all too unfortunately I know that difficulty from my own family. Certainly I view the similar experiences of others with a great deal of empathy and understanding, while also gracious for being able to see good examples of making the best of difficult situations, and hopefully using the rituals of death as a way of providing a bridge to better live life and preserve relationships with loved ones, regardless of what has come before.
Speaking of the rituals of death, I am often intrigued at the language of funerals, as well as the traditions and rituals concerning the funeral of a veteran as today’s funeral was for. In lieu of two honor guards, there was one who played taps through a recording device in a bugle that made it look (Milli Vanilli-style) as if there was a live performance of taps before the flag was folded according to tradition and law while the gusts of wind played havoc with the flowers and photos from the life of the deceased. Thankfully, the company was wonderful and the behavior of all involved gave credit to him as an honorable and decent man, well beloved by his friends and family alike. And there can be no higher honor given to someone than to be remembered fondly when one has no power or ability left to coerce or influence that love and honor.