What Kind of Presence do You Bring to a Funeral?


What Kind of Presence Do You Bring to a Funeral?

When my father passed away several years ago, I didn't cry. Not out of a stiff upper lip pride, but out of respect for him. I’m one of those lucky few people who had already had the chance to say goodbye. My family had gathered a few weeks before he passed knowing the time was limited. During the small gathering, we were full of tears, but they were tears of gratitude not regret or need to mend broken tie or apologies for the past. It was a celebration of how fortunate we were to have shared our lives and we told many stories that ensured that my father knew he was more than loved and appreciated.

So, when he died, different people reacted differently. I personally felt it would be disingenuous to shift from gratitude to sorrow just because his body wasn't present. Because for me, what I wanted most was to keep his love.  And even though his precious body that once expressed that love was already on its way to dust and ashes, I still held a belief that there was an eternal nature to his spirit and his love must be there with it. Or at least if I could never prove that that was true, I was definitely willing to pretend it was just in case.

I remember my sister saying to me, “Well, you better cry now because if you don't, it'll all come out one day.” I listened to her, but the forewarning made no sense to me.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't skipping around the house like it was a surprise party, I was present, just not expressing the pain of permanent loss. To me, it was like he went on a trip, and even though I may miss him, thinking of him as permanently gone was like watching an ice cube melt into a puddle and thinking the water is actually gone. Strange.

So, yes, everyone brings presents (presence) to a funeral, or sick bed or birthday party. It's your own state of being that you put before the person whether they are there in body fully, partially or not at all.

I've heard people say weddings are more for the families and guests than for the bride and groom, and that may be the same for funerals too. Because at the end of the day, when someone close to us passes away, we really don't know exactly how far away they pass. And maybe, just maybe, they are more present than our tears allow us to see.


P.S. A month or so after my father passed away, I had a dream that I met my father on a dusty classic crossroads. A no place in the middle of nowhere. He reached over to me and hugged me and I could feel the familiar bristle on his cheek and his warm arms embrace me. I knew then this was my goodbye. And so it was. He seemed to indicate that though he loved me, he really did have somewhere else to be and he wouldn't be coming back. That gave me solace and gave my spiritually curious nature just enough to let us both be free.