Go to the funeral.

Not for laughs today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with smiles!

Today I went to a funeral. A really sad funeral. This beautiful man was kind, generous, an asset to his community, a treasure to his family and friends and a piece of the world that should have been here for a long time. He was felled by ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was unbearably fast and cruel. He was 59 years old.

So many people were there. I waited in line for over an hour to pay my respects. That’s how many people went to the funeral. But I’m certain there are those who did not come because they ‘don’t go to funerals.’ I know there are thousands of reasons for staying away from a funeral, but there are a million reasons to go to the funeral.

When you go to the funeral, you get and give hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Hugs have been scientifically proven to make your life better. You get hugs from people you don’t know and people you do know. It doesn’t matter. It’s hugs. And these are good hugs. People want to connect. People want to share their sorrow, grief or even their discomfort. The sharing is the best part. Because it’s that kind of hug, it’s serious and comforting.

When you go to the funeral, you see people you haven’t seen for a long time. It might be cousins, aunts, uncles, old high school friends, kids from the neighborhood, their moms and dads, long lost acquaintances, all will be there. And you will be glad to see them. Connecting to your past feels good. You remember the shared times and it reminds you that you’ve been alive for a long time. You’ve touched a lot of lives and you’ve been touched by many others. It reinforces your connection to humanity. You’ve been human for a while and you might have forgotten that—just look how many people you have met and mingled with since you were a toddler.

You might not be ‘of a mind’ with these people but even that’s reaffirming. You made choices. You made a life for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met has had a hand in that. At the funeral, you get to remember that you are a part of it all, and you owe a debt of gratitude to your life and everyone in it.

“Paying your respects,” should not be taken lightly. As someone who has been to many funerals, both as part of the family and as just a member of the community, let me assure you showing up is important. When you show up, you are saying, “I’m sorry this hurts right now” or “I know the long haul was unspeakable for you, may you find comfort in days to come,” or “wow, your loved one lived a long and wonderful life, let me help you celebrate.” By foregoing this opportunity you forego a piece of yourself. You will want that when it’s your turn. You have an internal connection that gives you the grace to connect with all the kind people who have come to your loved one’s funeral.

And you will have a turn. Unless you’re a hermit, it is doubtful that you will get out unscathed. You will have to go to a funeral sooner or later, and probably not just your own. If you skip your Grandma’s funeral because you’re too sad, or your uncle’s funeral because he wasn’t your favorite person, or you’re best friend’s funeral because you are too emotional, or your mom’s or dad’s funeral because they were imperfect, or you loved them so very much you “don’t want to remember them that way,” you not only fail to pay your respects to your loved one and the community that was so important to them, you fail to connect to your own humanity. By taking your own vulnerability and sharing in everyone else’s vulnerability, you increase the goodness. You make us all better. You make you better. You are kind, you are good, you are compassionate.

This one little thing, going to the funeral, has such deep implications for humanity. Just ask John Donne… in 1624 he didn’t say go to the funeral, but he might as well have…..

No [one] is an island, entire of itself; every [one] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: [anyone’s]’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in [humankind], and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” Adapted from John Donne

©2017 Cathy Sikorski


26 thoughts on “Go to the funeral.

  1. Yes. You have said it beautifully. I would also like to add that the deceased person lived a life on this earth, whether that life was long or short, and that life needs to be acknowledged. Every person is important, whether that person is a king or a beggar, a popular, beloved person or the person nobody likes. Attending a funeral indicates that you acknowledge the importance of the deceased person, that he/she existed on this earth and that there is now a hole where that person used to be.

    As a church singer, I sing a lot of funeral masses. It is a beautiful way to send a person off to his/her journey to whatever awaits him/her in the afterlife.

  2. I feel like you just wrapped us all in a huge, caring hug and then, in the most loving, caring voice, told us exactly what we needed to hear. “You made a life for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met has had a hand in that. At the funeral, you get to remember that you are a part of it all, and you owe a debt of gratitude to your life and everyone in it.” Paths and points of view differ but pieces of everyone and everything that touches us is part of us. Always. Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss, Cathy. I do think everyone has to grieve in their own way but, yes, you should go to the funeral if you can.

    1. I know that’s true, and I know people sometimes struggle with this,but I think we all need to go deeper when we can. On the surface, it’s such a small thing, but in the big picture, for all of us, it’s monumental. Thanks for being here, Lois!

  4. I’ve been to my share of funerals and am ashamed to admit that I’ve skipped some too. I always regret that. And I can tell you, when I lost my parents 7 months apart, it meant the world to see the people who showed up and I will never forget that they did.

  5. It’s always awful to hear about someone who passes away at such a young age. I haven’t been to many funerals. Not because I didn’t want to go. Mostly because of distances. I have known people who went way before their time, including my husband and brother who were both 49. It’s so much harder to take than those who go at 90 or older.

    1. Yes, Rebecca and there are always times when we cannot go. I always say, no one dies conveniently. But if you can, I would encourage people to resist their hesitation and take a moment to be there for the grieveing family and ultimately for themselves.

  6. Why does it seem like so many 59-year-olds are dying when I’m 59:( I’m going to a funeral tomorrow for a 59-year-old that passed away suddenly the other night. I’ve known him for 45-years. He wasn’t even sick and was a gym teacher in great shape.
    When I was younger I was terrified of funerals. I still have so much guilt for not going to my best friends father’s funeral. She was so hurt.
    Congratulations on the new book!

    1. That’s just it, Doreen, you never know. I’m so glad you’re going. But don’t worry about the guilt. We’ve all made that mistake. We just try to do better,as you are doing tomorrow

  7. I’m in tears and can barely read this. My dad died at 59 of emphysema…my husband had a double lung transplant at 57 and is now 60. He’s doing well, but I am always aware how quickly things can change.

    1. Oh Tam, I know. I am so touched by your understanding of my message here. Yes, it goes straight to the heart. But sometimes we need to do that. Going straight to our hearts is a place that is reserved for kindness, compassion and gentleness and even though it may hurt, there is grace there to behold.

    1. Oh Jodie, so glad to hear that. As Carol Cassara says below, this is an important topic that can use a lot of thought and exposure! Feel free to use my post in any way, if it helps.

  8. I sometimes find it difficult to go, I must admit. But you are right, Cathy, just showing up speaks — and means — volumes. I am so sorry for the cruel loss of your friend.

    1. Thanks so much, Helene. It was truly a sad day. But even more than the showing up for them, I think the showing up for us is important. We learn things about ourselves and our resilience.

  9. So touching! It reminds me of a funeral of a co-worker that I have regrets not attending. I would have been better off, and now I can’t ever fix that.

  10. Beautiful Cathy and so right. I’ve been going to funerals since I was five ( with my grandmother). I seem to remember more people going years ago. When someone died the entire town came out. It really was nice.

Comments are closed.