Hello?! This is your life calling!
Stop acting like you’ve got all the time in the world
That those that you love will be there forever for you to tell
That those people you think about reconnecting with will always be around to do so
Start doing those things you think about doing, dream of doing, now
Every passing moment is one less opportunity
Like that old Nike ad says, “Just do it!”
– Me to myself
Today I went to the funeral of a very special person.
And as I sat in the church looking up at the stained glass, I was reminded of the many, many funerals of special people I have been to in the last twelve years.
Wakes and viewings in homes, memorials in gorgeous holy spaces and modest church rectories, wonderful music and laughter, beautiful heartfelt stories of love and life, stoic, structured religious services. Quite a spectrum of final acknowledgements or celebrations of the lives of special people.
The one thing they all had in common was that I was struck each time by how quickly such services end.
Something in me gets so angry: how can a person’s life end this way? It always feels so…inadequate. So lacking.
I want to sit and reflect. Linger. Always, I am shooed out before I am ready to leave.
Even the greatest memorials – which in my book are filled with laughter, love and grief with voices raised and tears shed in full view and community – are over much too soon for my heart.
I leave baffled and bereft, with the sense that something is missing.
Then it hits me: oh yes, something is missing. The special person is missing.
Having buried two parents, a brother, a grandfather, three dear mentor father-figures, and two beloved cats over these past 12 years, I have learned and bourn witness to the truth that literally all that remains after a special person dies, in the end, is how they made people feel.
Yes, it is true, they may leave behind other kinds of legacies too.
But really, all that literally remains is how that person loved the people they came into contact with, isn’t it?
My special person whose funeral was today was not a lifelong friend.
I’d drifted away from our friendship the past ten years or so, for reasons that made sense at the time but don’t now. He did nothing wrong to instigate this drifting – he was an innocent in a part of my life that became lost in a kind of wreckage that was indirectly a result from past events. Our friendship was felled by friendly fire in a war I was waging with ghosts. Yet another tally mark on the side of things I grieve, having lost them.
Because of this, I almost did not go to the funeral. I didn’t feel entitled to.
Then I remembered the old adage about people coming into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, and I realized that showing up for him as someone who had loved and been loved by him for any length of time is all any of us can do. That his current special people would surely only benefit from being surrounded by any and all of those who knew how special their special person was. That I could go for him, for me, for them, and be one of many who loved this special person for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
And there were many of us there. I have no doubt when I pass I will be lucky to have a handful of people. I have lived far too self-contained a life so far. I am still influenced by a deep-seated fear of people that shapes my connections no matter what I do, it seems. (Although I have been and am working to shift this, to be able to have deeper intimacies with people that I care for and who care for me.)
But my special friend was one of those people whose funerals reveal just how many people their life has touched. All kinds of people from all walks of life were there. And all had lost someone very special to them.
My special friend was my special friend for a season of ten or so very special years. He loved me dearly at a time I did not know how to love myself. He gave me unconditional love and support, and he championed my talents and dreams, and mirrored to me someone who had the courage to truly make their dreams come true.
I have so many happy memories of those years, and he figures prominently in all of them.
These years later, I can appreciate him even more with the wisdom of age. I thought of him many times through these years. Thought of reaching out. I foolishly kept putting it off, thinking I had the luxury of time. Hah.
In many ways, the way he lived puts me to shame. He found the courage to really put his talents out there for the world to see, over and over, no matter what anyone thought. I am still struggling to find that kind of belief in what I have to offer, that kind of courage.
He loved to sing so he sang. He loved rock and roll, so he performed in his own rock and roll cabaret shows. He loved what singing was to him, so he did all in his power to help others to be able to sing as well. He was a champion for many, and a power of example to all artists.
He died a senseless, awful death, one that seems ridiculously unfair and absurd for a man such as he was: one of the kindest, most generous souls I have known.
And so today, I leave yet another funeral, baffled and bereft.
But I carry the gifts of his life forever within me: how loved he made me feel, the memories of the music we made together, the inspiration he will always be to me as someone who just put it all out there for the world to see no matter the reception.
And the kick in the pants to “do it” already, no matter what.
There’s no time to waste.
I hear you, John. I get it. Thank you, my friend. I love you.
And I am so grateful we had our season.