Saturday, June 04, 2005

Funeral for a Loved One

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love. -Madame De Stael, writer (1766-1817)

Wednesday I went to a funeral. It was a memorial service for the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends. While there some memories came back to me. As I watched the younger children laugh and play, despite what we told them beforehand, I thought about our own childhood and how we did the same thing.

I remember going to funerals with my parents as a young child and seeing them as social affairs. It wasn’t that my parents didn’t lecture me beforehand, like I did my own daughter that night, and explained who had died and how the family was sad. They told me all of this but when I got there and saw my friends or other children my age I quickly forgot all of that. I walked in solemnly and I was quiet for a little while but as soon as I made contact with other children off I went. It wasn’t that I was being insensitive it was simply that I was too young to really understand death and how it affected those who loved that person. I, and the other children there, were really innocent and untainted. That’s how I saw the children that night at my friend’s father’s service.

I also thought of how different that all is now. I thought of my own sister’s and mother’s memorial services and how I felt at those. I didn’t even notice if there were children playing or if people were laughing and talking. Honestly if I had taken the time to notice I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Because as Madame De Stael states in the quote above, we really only understand death when it affects you personally. I couldn’t expect others to feel my pain and I know that in some ways funerals are like social events because you see friends you haven't seen in a long time.

Another thing happened that night. The baby started to walk long stretches. He’s been taking small steps lately, but none like that night at the funeral. I was stuck by the irony of life. With one life lost another life is starting, because when a child walks that’s the beginning of a whole new phase of their life.

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