Tuesday, January 26, 2016

a time to live, a time to tie dye

I went to a really good funeral today.

And by good I mean good, really truly good in many senses of the word. The liturgy was properly executed and the church was full; there were moments of open grief, but they were balanced by authentic laughter. There was appropriate music, and very fine singing, and the altar servers were reverent. The attendees seemed comfortable - not as if they wouldn't be visiting a church again unless it were their own funeral - and the family was lovely, dignified, and warm.

A good funeral can have quirky elements; this one certainly did. Fr. Bob, who spent most of his career as a pastor in the Caribbean, offered the homily. It included a giraffe, nearly six feet tall and cloaked in tie dyed fabric (the deceased's signature style), and the singing of a modified version of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Quantum physics and a homemade board game focusing on the old TV show "Mayberry RFD" were mentioned. And yes, it was all good.

I didn't know Mickey well, but I believe he too was "good."  He was known in our parish for his optimism and joy, for his love of music, his family, and his faith. When I performed in a community theater production of "It's a Wonderful Life" with him a few years ago, I discovered he was also a talented actor. Unconventional and childlike, he was the ideal Uncle Billy.

As I prayed for Mickey and his family today, participating in this very good funeral, I prayed also that I would be worthy of a similar one someday. I decided the best way to do that was to live a life like Mickey's. A good life.

Mickey suffered a great deal in his final months. I believe that had something to do with the goodness of his funeral. Suffering and joy inexplicably accompany one another in this life. I imagine the latter is more rich and full after having lived through the first.

My 13-year-old son attended the funeral with me. As we walked out, I said, "that was a really good funeral."

"It was!" he agreed. "I want a funeral like that someday."

Me too...me too.

I'm preparing by making today good. Suffering patiently. Smiling more often. Listening to more music.

I probably won't wear tie dye, but you never know.

It suddenly seems like a good idea, a very good one indeed. Thanks, Mickey.

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