When we were in our 20s, we were in the wedding zone. Every month or so, it seemed, Kish and I would be off to a “wedding weekend,” attending the nuptials of friends and family members.
Now we seem to have entered the funeral zone. Rather than the great joy of weddings, we’re experiencing the emptiness and sadness of loss.
The prevalence of funerals seems surprising, but it shouldn’t be. According to American morbidity statistics, death rates multiply significantly when people enter their 50s. Suddenly more of our rock-like, long-time friends are dying. It’s jarring, and unsettling. And when you add the increased death rates of our generation to the expected funerals of older family members and acquaintances, it seems like much more time is spent putting on the gray suit and dark tie and going to funerals and calling hours.
I’m a strong believer in going to calling hours. Although I always feel sorry for the family of the departed, as they try to deal with their grief while standing for long periods greeting visitors, I think it is important to show up and give the family a tangible sign of how important the departed was to friends and colleagues. In our hurly-burly modern world, the fact that people have taken time from their busy days to stand in line in order to shake the hands of spouses, children, and siblings and murmur a few words of remembrance and consolation makes a huge statement. I think the physical presence of people who want to pay their respects helps those who are wrestling with the awful loss to understand the real significance of their loved one.
So I will go, and stand in line, and think about the person who has gone beyond, and hug friends who also are there, and greet the widow and kids and try as best I can to convey what the departed meant to me. I just wish there weren’t as many opportunities to do so these days.