Do It Well

Today’s daily inspirational email advised ‘Whatever you do today, do it well.’  Today I had to attend a funeral.

How does one do a funeral well?  Cry more?  Cry less?  In my experience, one doesn’t do funerals at all.  Funerals are done to you.

General sentiment was one of relief that my aunt had finally been freed from her torturous body.  But the joy for the deceased cannot obscure the sorrow of those left behind.  I gazed at the massive hole in the cemetery ground and thought, ‘there is not dirt enough on the planet to fill in the hole left by the departure of a dear one.’

Hugs and kisses and condolences greet me at the door of the funeral home.  I am both relieved and guilty to be in the arms of family seen only at marriages and deaths.  And I’m grateful for the rituals that force us together when we’ve failed to sustain connections otherwise.

Together, we bolster each other, forming a collective cocoon around Auntie’s closest family – the ones who risk the greatest sorrow.  Our unspoken promise is to hold tight and not let go.  Fall here and we’ll catch you.  You are safe in our arms.  Take what you need from our open hearts.  And fall they do, spilling open with abandon.  Love and sorrow are one voice intertwined.

After all these years, I learn things I didn’t know about the woman who held me at the altar of God at birth and pledged to help my parents watch over me.  Her life is no longer a still shot but a panoramic movie.  A motion picture in which she is the star.  And here we are, her supporting cast, applauding her as she accepts her final award.  She is center stage and has never appeared more perfect.

The bittersweet sound of church bells unleashes my tears.  A song pleads, ‘Hold me close God.’  Yes, God, please do.  Because I feel myself unraveling.  The world is suddenly unfamiliar.  Someone important is missing.

The clock in my world has stopped, yet the people outside of my circle carry on, oblivious that the world is forever changed.  They watch, unaffected, and perhaps even annoyed as our processional of cars slides by.  I gaze into their strange eyes willing them to pause and commend Auntie to Heaven with a prayer of their own.

It’s hard to guess when the healing will come.  It will be different for each of us.  Healing is not to be demanded.  It must be invited and allowed to arrive in its own time, after it has negotiated its way past the darkness.

For now, I wait.  I am at once drained and replete.  It’s as if I am a bottle that has been emptied of its contents and scrubbed out with a brush that reached deep inside.  Empty but clean.  Ready to fill again.

I vow anew to live more consciously and to love more fully so that I may fill myself this time with only the things that really matter.  This, I know, is a promise I will make a thousand times over.  It is my own repeating death and resurrection story.

Returning to this morning’s instructions to ‘do it well,’ I maintain this as an impossibility where funerals are concerned.  But if by this statement one is meant to be present to life and death, to open to vulnerability, and to give from the most sincere part of one’s heart, then yes, I did it well.  And I have an Auntie to thank for it.

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