What a Funeral Can Teach Us

How witnessing a life well lived led to an unexpected reunion.

Posted in , Feb 12, 2019

Funeral flowers

Last Saturday my wife and I drove to Connecticut for her uncle’s funeral. He had died at the age of 93 and had lived a good life. The service was lovely–clearly, he had been a pillar in the church. I noticed something odd during the service: sitting across the aisle was a fellow I knew from our neighborhood in New York.

I searched for names. Yes, it was Jim and his wife Jenny. Our kids had played together in the local Little League and more recently I used to run into him in the park on my morning runs.

Fact is: we would run together, talking about everything. He was a college professor and had written several books. We talked about writing. We talked about our kids. We talked about our families. His companionship made the run go faster. I was sorry when he and Jenny moved out of the neighborhood. We had so much in common.

But I wondered: how did they know the deceased?

At the passing of the peace, I stepped across the aisle and gave Jim a hug. “So good to see you,” I said. “We’re here because of family.” I went on to explain that the man who had died, the man in the flag-draped coffin was my wife’s uncle.

He hesitated for a moment then said, “He’s my wife’s uncle too.”

Yogi Berra is supposed to have said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t come to yours.” Even if that’s impossible, I understand what he meant. A good funeral is a reminder of what life is all about.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die.” Those words always take on new meaning when I hear them at a funeral.

Indeed we are all together in life and death.

Of course, when the service had ended, Jim and I were able to piece together exactly how our spouses were related–by marriage–to the deceased. Small world? It is indeed. The point was, if we hadn’t been there we would have never known.

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