Before They Leave Us

We should start eulogizing those who mean the most to us before they leave us.

Michael Smith said this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.  It holds loads of material, this quote, for how we live, doesn’t it?

As a pastor, I’ve conducted a lot of funerals, not as many of some of my friends, but enough.  And every funeral has the same quality.  At some point during or after the service, perhaps leading up to the memorial when loved ones are most open and fragile and honest, I’ll hear somebody tell the family or the crowd something along the lines of “Let’s not let this be the only time we come together.”  Or “We should talk more.”  Or “I didn’t know that about him, what you said.”  Or “I wish I could have said this one thing to…”

It dawns on me every time I participate in the ritual of death–be it at a funeral or, oddly, when I wrestle to fall asleep at night–that at death, for some amount of time at least, words are silenced.  Gratitude as we understand it can no longer be expressed.  Praise is said but goes unheard by the one about whom we speak.

Have you ever thought about the fragility of the moment that is death?  Writers may live close to that fragility, artists and pastors too.  But there is a healthy reminder in fragility or in, simply, change.  Seeing a loved one, once strong, lean under the slow and heavy hand of age.  Cleaning up a relative’s work space, boxing up his things, after he’s left it there.  Fainting when nothing like fainting was expected because who faints for anything other than some bad reason.  Listening to your kid babble in now semi-understandable words when, just moments ago, he couldn’t even roll over in a crib.  Turning away from a person who has just said goodbye.

I think a sensitivity to endings changes how you look at life.  Endings, like death, change how we live life because, well, we just won’t live forever.  Sometimes that alone is a reason to linger.  In a conversation, over somebody’s house, perhaps even in the congestion of rush hour trying to make it home.  Sometimes that is a reason to say something that a person can hear, write something they can read, draw a picture they can stick on a wall, or snatch his or her attention in some way before they leave us.