Spring is a time for hope, not sadness. Lately though, there’s been plenty of sadness to go around. The obit page has been full lately. Far too many young people for my liking have gotten their mini biography published. Many children have been orphaned already this year. Sometimes it’s a freak accident. Sometimes it’s cancer. But every time I read a premature tribute to a life unfinished, I can’t help but reflect on the suicide rate, and the madness of the world. I don’t know how many recent obits were self directed exits from the stage of life, but you can usually tell. People love to tell you about it. The gossip that follows is nearly as depressing as the act itself.
My personal philosophy has always been to look at suicide as a mistake that can’t be taken back. The victim reaches a place where they forget how full of opportunity life is, and the fact that the sun always comes up the next day. I’ve only lost a couple of people in my life that way, but I’ve watched lots of families live with the scars after it happens. The person is always one that you wouldn’t want to lose. Rarely does a waste-of-skin miscreant leave before their time. They stick around and cause as much trouble as possible for as long as possible. Usually, the ones that leave are the gentle people; people that would’ve gone out of their way for a friend in need. Then one day they’re gone, and we have to fend for ourselves.
Four Weddings and a Funeral is one of those movies that gets re-run on television quite a bit. I watch it in bits and pieces from time to time, if it happens to be near my favorite scenes when I flip through the channels. There’s a great poem by W.H. Auden that’s given as a eulogy in the movie. I love that poem, and I always have to watch that when I can. The subject of weddings and funerals has come up several times in the last few weeks, and in fact I’ll be in route to the funeral home when I finish writing my weekly contribution. When I was in my twenties, four weddings to every funeral seemed to be about the right ratio. My thirties have been a different story. Most of my friends have married by now, so I spend more time at funerals than weddings now. It’s been a complete flip flop. As I look back over the last six months, I’ve been to about four funerals, and one wedding. The eulogies are rarely as well scripted as what the actors give. People in pain are generally not that good in front of a crowd. It’s always interesting to see if the minister or priest knew the person or not. Some of them fake a relationship, which always infuriates me. Most ministers are not great actors. Some give the same talk for every funeral. One priest I know has done the same homily at every funeral I’ve gone to where he was presiding. He approaches the subject of death at about a fourth grade level, and I wonder two things: If the family has heard his canned performance before, and are they comforted by his gross generalizations and borderline incoherent babblings about heaven? I am not. For most people, their funeral is the last time a room full of people will gather in their name and pray for their salvation. It would be nice if the leader of the group would take that a little more seriously than I’ve seen some do.
The only thing sadder than a young person’s funeral is the person who gets no funeral at all. Some eulogies never get read. Some tributes are never made. Sometimes, the grieving cannot process the loss, and so they ignore it by not acknowledging the life that once was. A sparsely attended wake is surely better than no wake at all, but some do not see it that way. That’s their prerogative, I suppose. Sad though.
As I get up from my computer to go pay my respects, I do so with a happy heart. I am thankful for the life that was, and glad that they will be remembered in a way that honors them. It’s true that I will likely attend more funerals in my future than I have in my past, but it’s spring, and I am among the living. There are no guarantees in life, but as long as you’re drawing breath, there is hope. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. If you need help, please call. #fewerfunerals