Celebrating Life

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Today has been an amazing day. Darren and I went to Willie’s funeral today.

I didn’t know Willie directly, but I’ve heard of him lots. He helped out at a couple of the organizations I volunteer with, donating his time and equipment to spray paint some bookshelves, for example. He owned and operated a painting business that painted anything and everything, but mostly interiors. He was known around town to be very helpful, always willing to donate time or help someone out. He was active in his church, and the pastor kept saying how he loved the church, and the people in it. His impact on the community was evident in the number of people there — around 400, we figured, which in a town of less than 4,000 is a lot! (That would be like over 100,000 people showing up for a funeral in a city of a million.) I know his wife a little, and I’m very good friends with one of her very good friends, so I feel a kinship.

Even though I didn’t really know him, I cried a little. What made me cry? Thinking of how Barb, his wife, must feel. Imagining myself in her place, a new widow. Thinking of how the kids must feel.

Darren and I debated about whether to stay for the fellowship afterwards, and we decided to stay at least a little while. We ended up sitting across from some strangers who turned out to be very nice people, and we chatted quite a while, sharing philosophies on life, how to stay out of a rut, that kind of thing. We also chatted with our neighbours, friends, and people we know around town for various reasons. There was a wonderful feeling of community, and although there was some sadness, it was not completely mournful. After the funeral, the interment, and the luncheon, there was a memorial service, which we didn’t stay for; it had an open-mic component and I am sure it celebrated his life even more.

A page from a photo calendar I made (photo by me).

The truly amazing part happened after we got home. My honey and I sat and talked and talked and talked. We talked a little about what we’d like at our funeral or where to be buried (neither of us is very picky), and then we talked about what we had observed at the funeral, how we felt about it, and what the preacher had talked about and how sometimes we related to it and sometimes not. It was all good, some things we just see differently. We both also noticed how we were easily able to just allow others to have their own funeral experience, and not judge or mentally comment on them. Darren said that it’s quite a change for him and an indication of how comfortable he is in his own skin, and I agree! I have come a long way from the awkward, self-conscious, anxious, fish-out-of-water that I used to be in many social situations. I just wasn’t comfortable.  I guess I wasn’t always like that — sometimes, I wonder what my mom thinks when she reads my blog (my dad doesn’t use the computer). Does Mom say “that’s not right!?”  I bet my perception of myself is different from others’ view of me… Mom, feel free to comment any time! But I remember feeling quite insecure and fearful of some social situations.

I think some of my uncomfortable feelings were rooted in a deep inability to handle any kind of conflict between differing points of view. I just couldn’t stand the thought of debating with someone about something personal. If someone became too assertive, I just wanted to run. I’m not really like that any more; I enjoy exchanging views with people, especially if they are able to stay calm and logical, although I am also better able to witness/handle other’s raw emotions, even grief. It’s something I’ve learned how to do by necessity because of the volunteering I do. I’m able to put up a little distance between me and the other person and yet stay engaged in the situation — not withdrawing into a shell or wishing I were somewhere else. Sometimes I have to tell myself “you are not a sponge. This emotion/feeling in the air can go right through you” and that helps me somehow. And I never used to think of myself as very empathetic/touchy-feely, since I was so uncomfortable with others’ emotions, but perhaps I’ve grown in that area too.

Anyways, I just wanted to share that little bit. I will be thinking of Willie’s family, and thinking of ways I can help in the coming weeks and months. There are always lots of people around at first, but that tends to drop off, while the grief yet lingers.