Another loss. Another funeral.
This one for a friend’s husband. A loving father and fearless warrior who held strong, endured unimaginable pain and fought courageously for every last moment of this life. The similarities of struggle and loss stir painful memories of my own darkest hours.
I knew going in; there would be various triggers layered into this day. It’s never the most obvious, so I cannot adequately prepare. I do know that whatever it is, it will strike without warning, a curveball of sorts that will take me off guard and possibly pack enough punch to send me spiraling right back down the rabbit hole. And yet, even knowing this high probability of personal pain, I’m still compelled to go to this funeral…and take my kids. I know how powerful and healing the support of loving friends and family can be at these mournful events.
Packing up plenty of tissue and bracing myself for the day, we headed out to the church. My plan was to find seats towards the back. The last row if at all possible so that if a breakdown of significant proportions took over, for any of us, we’d have an easy escape route out. The last thing I wanted to do (as I was already self-conscious about being the “other widow”) was to make a scene or faint in the middle of the service.
A traffic jam, along with a significant turnout tampered with my easy-out strategy as the pews for as far as I could see were full. While searching for a safe place to sit, an attentive usher caught my eye, waving us over to the far right aisle. I followed to where I assumed I would remain somewhat safe in the outskirts and then immediately regretted my decision. “Oh no,” my inner voice cried out as my heartbeat and anxiety rose exponentially, “Not the front…please, not the front.”
No such luck. An ushering pro, he knew exactly how to maximize the seating capacity. Closer and closer to action we moved, his arms quickly hustling us to the remaining seats. Too far down the aisle to turn back, I followed his lead…to the fifth row, tissue sharing distance to the reserved family seating section. With an empathy meter already on high, I now had also to endure being in the eye-line of the grieving family.
Right as we sat the video presentation began. A peaceful silence filled the church as all eyes settled on a large screen displaying a montage — a glimpse into the dearly departed’s beautiful life. I, unfortunately, did not know him well but felt bittersweet fortune to be able to get to know him a little better through these vivid memories now being shared. I concentrated on taking a few calming breaths, knowing I would at least be safe from seeing myself in any of these scenes.
And then it happened.
A song. I immediately recognized it from the first few acoustic guitar notes played. An instant rush of heat flushed my face from the emotions that stirred from deep within. I tried desperately to stop myself from what I knew was coming. I reached for the tissues and glanced at my son. The look on his face relaying my exact thoughts, “Really, Mom. So soon?” Yep. Surely, I thought, I would make it a little further along than five minutes. There was nothing I could do and no way of stopping the uncontrollable waterworks now freely flowing. I just hoped I would be able to pace myself for any other surprises yet to come.
To distract myself from the emotional intensity, I began concentrating on the lyrics to the culprit song, “I Lived,” now playing in its entirety. An appropriately titled song frequently played at graduations (and, now I’ll know for future reference – at funerals), sings hopeful messages while emphasizing the oh-so-poignant reminder of living life to its fullest. I could tell by the incredible images displayed of this adventurous man, taken way too soon, that he indeed owned every second that this world had given him.
So what got me? And why so deeply? I had become attached to this song from the very first listen. It immediately reminded me of my late husband, Joe. I heard the message of the lyrics — loud and clear — as if he were singing it to me. A reminder of what is important in life: to face your fears, live each moment and truly give it all you’ve got. I had grieved for quite a while before hearing this song, and it came at a perfect juncture of my journey — a time I had decided that the best way to truly honor Joe was indeed to live a full and happy life. Later, as my confidence began to rebuild, I turned the tables and started singing it as a wish for my children to embrace. I hope, as the song suggests, that they:
Take that jump and not fear the fall.
Choose to stay when everybody else runs.
When the sun goes down, each and every day, joyfully and triumphantly raise their cups (juice filled for now).
Fall in love, knowing that it can indeed hurt so bad.
While this was not the only trigger (or sign) that got me on this day, I am thankful it (and the others) did not result in a major scene or fall back down the rabbit hole. Instead, it provided a powerful reminder of how very precious life truly is.
I encourage you to listen to this motivating song, embrace its uplifting messages…and then get out there and live!