Over the weekend, I drove about 1,250 miles (round-trip) to attend a funeral for a friend. The service was decidedly Christian, no surprise there. It was attended by somewhere close to seventy people. That was a touch of a surprise, given the relatively small size of the funeral services facility. Throughout the service, the pastor made references about how little he knew her, having just met her surviving family members just this past week. His sermon was sprinkled with references, including a piece of New Testament scripture, that referred to her as “salt seasoning” in the lives of those that had gathered. I found the reference to be a touch repulsive, but then I’m not a Christian. Plus, this is a touch of a sidetrack from what I am really wanting to write about.
I was surprised at the number of people that showed up for the funeral. There were people from many walks of her life. Of all the people there, I knew her the least amount of time (aside from the pastor). We had only met a few months prior. She seemed to be a nice person. Very into her children and her family. An insufferable Pokemon player like I am. But at the funeral, there were people from all the far corners of her life. All impacted by her very presence in their lives. There was talk of the practical jokes she played on her friends, her life-long infatuation with Matthew McConaughey, and her tireless efforts to be helpful both in life and at work.
All of it struck a touch of a nerve within my own life. How dod I connect with the other people in my life? What impact have I made in the lives of others? Or am I just an anomaly? An outlier in the datum of life? Quite a few years ago, I read a story about a homeless veteran who had passed away. The funeral director could find no relatives to contact for the burial process. He contacted law enforcement for a deeper assistance, finally giving up and deciding to provide a burial for the veteran at his own cost. An officer that had helped with the search for relatives decided to contact a reporter to run a story, hoping that this might bring out a relative that he had been unable to find. On the day of the funeral, he gathered his family together to attend the homeless veteran’s funeral. When they arrived, there were over two-hundred people who had also arrived for the funeral. None of them were related to the deceased. They had read the news story and arrived to pay their respects to the man because of his military service. I sometimes wonder if my funeral would wind up being the same thing – people showing up just because of my simple eight years in the Air Force.
The reality is that my life, much like this homeless man’s, was much more than just a few years of military service towards protecting the Constitutional guarantees of the citizens of this country. He had no one to sing his song. Not to sound egotistical, but I know of several people that would sing my song. There are several people that I know for whom I would gladly add my own verse to their song, including a few that I’ve never met.
My Druidry is highly focused on connections, the little ribbons of connectivity between myself and everything around me (jokingly, maybe I should call it “Connective Druidry”). How the wind in the trees affects my mood as I walk past them in the local park. The gorgeous view that I stopped for in the middle of the Flint Hills of Kansas as I drove through yesterday (see picture attached to this blog post). The smile from the young lady at the rest area when I said “You’re welcome ma’am” when I held the door open for her. Some of those connections last forever. Some last for mere moments. Yet, those connections exist.
In my Druidry, the importance is not in the connection itself, but acknowledging and understanding that those connections did exist. It’s a reason I do not deal strong emotions easily into the world around me. I hold those back for the moments that are more appropriate for those emotions. In the meantime, I am constantly dealing out simple emotive moments everywhere that I can. A smile, a nod, a handshake, a fist bump, holding hands, a hug….small moments to convey my acknowledgement of a moment. …and then there’s the moment of a funeral. A serious acknowledgement of the depth and breadth that a connection with another human in this lifetime.
As I noted before, my mother and father had no funeral for their deaths. I interred their ashes into the columbarium. I stood their silently when the funeral director asked me if I wanted to say a few words. Once that passed, I softly shook my head in a “no” fashion, and he closed the doors on each of their niches. That was the wishes of my parents. No funeral. No day full of remembrance. No tears shed over their passing. Their wishes.
Occasionally, I get asked what I want for my funeral. Flippantly, I’ll reply that I want to be cremated and my ashes put in a trach bag and set out by the curb for the weekly trash pickup. There are days that I am serious about this. Other days, not so much. But a funeral wouldn’t be for me. It would be for all those who are still here. Stuck in this life. A chance for them to remember me and the pain in the ass that I have been in their lives. And for other things as well.
I joke about being a pain in the ass, though I most certainly have been. I could pull up quite a few people that would have nothing nice or positive to say about me, simply because the last words ever spoken between us were those stated in anger, disappointment, and sorrow. My mother, who suffered from dementia the last thousand-or-so days in her life would be one of those. Our last coherent words between one another were extremely unkind. In her final three-and-a-half years of her life, there was never a coherent statement passed between us. Besides her, there are plenty of other people who have negative memories of our times together because of those angered moments. I can’t change any of what happened. Its done and in the past.
However, I do know that there are plenty of people that see me in a positive light as well. Some consider me to be an inspirational facet of their lives, simply because I cared enough to not only help them, but to also sit and just listen. I have several students from my days of teaching at the college who would be testaments to this. My perspective was to not only teach them about technology, but to also understand how technologies can be enhancements in their daily lives – should they wish it to be so. Along the way, I learned about them as students, and tried my best to encourage their progress along the way. The student who wanted to utilize technology to help him run a small hotel with his family. The extremely talented student who wanted to be a creative writer, who I challenged to add her creativity into my written assignments. And the student who was working his way through college to help enhance his career as an EMT, while trying to pivot his life away from a criminal charge. I didn’t just try to show them how technology could help them, I offered advice to push them in positive directions within their lives. The hotel manager has seen his family business flourish over the years. The creative writer continued into the university setting, focusing her efforts into the world of creative writing. The EMT took my advice and worked his way through his probationary period by dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s in everything that the Justice system required of him. I’m extremely proud of them, and their efforts. My part in all of that was small…just a little nudge, a word or two thousand of encouragement. They still did all the work.
There are others that I’ve played a role in their lives. Some, I will never know about it, but its happened. Those little connections are there. My role in living each day is to acknowledge those moments. Good, bad, indifferent, unknown…all of that exists. We touch the lives of so many people over the course of living through this lifetime. I think its worth taking a few moments out of your daily life…just to acknowledge that this is possible, and that it does happen. We certainly don’t need the fading light of our passing beyond the veil to acknowledge how much we touch the lives of others. Even those that say they “hate” us now because of something that occurred to push us irrevocably apart. After all, there was a time when we were a positive part of one another’s lives. Our connections…the moments where our lives intertwine…are part of what shapes us into the human beings that we are. You, the person reading this…you and I are intertwined to one degree or another. That makes me happy….its an eternal dance that we shared…even for just a single moment.