Sep 2, 2010

Life and Death/Last Goodbye

by Susan G. Haws

Tuesday I went to the funeral of my friend’s mother. It was a good funeral, as funerals go. Funerals get me thinking of other memorial services I have attended: my father’s, grandparents’, aunts’, uncles’, friend’s son. I think of how I should prepare for my mother’s, mine. What do I want for a service for myself? What I want to have achieved. Am I ready to go? Am I ready to go for the right reasons? Am I ready for loved ones to go? I want to be there for my friend. I know how hard it is to lose a parent. The sales lady that helped me when I selected sympathy flowers had lost her young adult son. Death can be a shock, or you can have a few weeks to plan and ready your loved ones as best you can as this dear sister had. But this final goodbye is still painful; a deep cut, slow to heal.

Funeral services are for the living: a chance to share how important the departed person was to our lives. We need to know that their lives have meaning, significance beyond the mundane that we all get caught up in. We need to remember their good deeds, humor, achievements, and idiosyncrasies. Acknowledge we have lost an important person; a chance to reminisce with others that miss our loved one. We use words like lost, missing, gone, passed away, passed over. Our loved ones have gone where our bodies won’t let us go. Yet we know that husk of skin, tissue, and bone that housed their spirits that we are laying to rest was not the sum total of the person. Their personality lives on, somewhere we can’t go.

I wish I could say I had an epiphany and I am transformed to a totally better person but I am not. Yet each time I have the gut wrenching, soul searching experience of attending a memorial service I learn more about me, and the human experience. I have no doubt the departed are in a better place and are appreciative of our efforts to show respect and love.


  1. I have thought this over and over and come to the same conclusion every time. I don't want a funeral or a memorial service. They are just too painful. I would prefer to send out a group of videos sharing with my family and friends what made them special in my life and let that be that. After all we'll all see each other again. That's just my final take on it. Don't know what category that puts me in.

  2. Terri, that is a neat idea. I think I just want a short grave side service, or no service at all.
    Valerie, thanks.

  3. I, on the other hand, think I want two services: one where I live now with my new friends of the last five years; and one in the metro Phoenix area, where I lived most of my life. I want to attend and see my friends and relatives, and hear all the things they say about me. I've had a taste of that in the last few hours. It's humbling, but very sweet.

    Call me goofy.

    Several people testified to me after my daughter's funeral that she was there. She plopped down beside my friend sitting on the conductor's podium between the piano and the organ, flipped her long blonde hair over her shoulder, and leaned forward, chin in hands with her elbows resting on her knees, and enjoyed the whole thing.

  4. After losing three friends this summer, I have had this subject on my mind as well. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Susan. Well put.

    I visited both of my grandfathers before their death. I didn't have the means to travel for their funerals. I was glad to see them while still in this life, but I missed the closure of saying goodbye and sharing stories with family and friends. I feel like Marsha...I want to hear the stories through other perspectives!

    When I've needed it most, I've felt the presence and protection of loved ones who have passed through the veil. Such a blessing!

  5. I'm with you about the epiphany - I don't think I've had one of those at a funeral. But I always leave with a different view of this earth life and appreciating the gift that it is. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Marsha, what a blessing to know for sure your daughter was there and was pleased. I think that the two services would be appropriate and people wouldn't have to travel.

    Kari,how lucky to feel the presence of passed loved ones. I guess hearing the stories could provide closure for the one passed too.
    At this point I just want a nice musical number or two and a prayer and lots of flowers and plants.


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