Friday, May 17, 2013
Never too Old to Stop Learning...
I had the opportunity again this week to tag along with my husband as he performed a funeral for a family in Lodi, California. It amazes me that even though Todd has done thousands of funerals, you would think that this was among the first by the care and attention given to the family. He really has a way of making them feel at ease, even in the worst time of their lives. I watched him as he interacted with this particular family, who was seeing their mom and grandma for the first time, as she had died in Arizona, and these relatives lived up in Northern California where their loved one was to be buried. He talked with them about how beautiful she was, how she looked so peaceful, and even happy. She just looked to be sleeping, at rest, and at peace. One of the relatives came to the funeral quite distraught, but then saw Todd standing there, and because he knew him from another service he did for someone else in the family, he felt comfortable enough to come over to Todd and embrace him and cry on his shoulder for quite some time. As I sat and watched him, I knew that this is where my husband is supposed to be. This is where he is meant to spend his days, and sometimes his nights. This is his calling in life, to help, to comfort, to guide people as they find their way through this difficult time. He has a gift of healing, and a way with people. Even though being married to a funeral director is difficult at times, as the profession is very physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, I know that families love him, and appreciate the care and attention he provides each of them. It is a demanding profession, but one that gives so much back in the way of satisfaction, for both of us.
It is fascinating to me how each funeral service is different, yet similar in its own way. It doesn't matter what religion people belong to, or even if there is no religion at all, the underlying purpose of the funeral service is always to bring hope and healing to an otherwise dreary situation. At this particular service, I had the pleasure of listening to Pastor Steve deliver a beautiful and powerful sermon about hope and human nature. He talked about how as humans, we are imperfect beings. Our human nature sometimes causes us to falter, and many times we fall short and are not our best selves. He talked about how we need to forgive, and be patient and kind and loving to each other. He talked about how sometimes, it takes something like the death of a loved one to bring people together, and bring about the circumstance where we can finally forgive and fully love another person. Isn't that sad that sometimes we don't realize how deeply we feel about a person until they're gone? So many people have regrets that they needn't have at the death of a loved one. He also shared something that another Pastor had told him as a boy, and something that he had remembered, and kept with him all of his life. He said it was one of the most important life lessons he had ever learned. That lesson was this:
"If people KNEW better, they would probably DO better, but most people don't KNOW better."
His point was, that as we go through life, often we judge people harshly because of their actions toward us or someone close to us. Sometimes, these actions can be hurtful, or just plain ignorant, but if we can think about, and apply the saying above, it could help us to stop judging, stop being offended, stop being frustrated with people, and just LOVE them despite their flaws. Human nature is such that we are all flawed. Whether we realize it or not, if we take opportunities to judge people harshly--we better be prepared to be judged the same way by others. On the same note, if we are forgiving and loving toward others, that type of treatment will be returned ten fold in the way others treat us. Life is hard, and none of us know how long we really have to live here on this earth. It seems to me that the more time we spend being judgmental, harsh, and unforgiving, the less time we leave ourselves to really LIVE, and after all, isn't that what we're all here to do? His sermon reminded me of one of my very favorite quotes from Maya Angelou:
“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I've learned that we never get too old to stop learning. Thank you Pastor Steve, for teaching me another fabulous life lesson, at a funeral of all places.