I Have an Intense Love/Hate Relationship…

…with funerals.

Let me explain. Or at least try to.

Most likely, I’ve been to more funerals than you. Not that this is a contest. I’m just saying. When I was an altar boy, I often got ‘funeral duty.’ That meant, during school, I was pulled out of class, along with another friend, to go across the street and serve a funeral happening that day. By the time I finished eighth grade, I had probably already been witness to at least 30 to 35 funerals.

Seeing a funeral from the altar gives a certain perspective — that of respect. I could tell early on that with each funeral, my ‘respect’ — not just for the departed soul, but for the process — grew.

With all of my recent angst over all things catholic, strangely enough, one of my favorite elements is tradition. And, I have to say, us catholics know how to send someone off.

There are a lot of reasons for it, but a big part of it is the music. Listen to some of the hymns and, well, it just gets to you. At least it does to me. It’s a part of me that really resonates catholic. Like, OK, maybe this is the faith for me.

From my all-time favorite funeral song (yes, I have a list), You Are Near:

Yahweh, I know you are near. Standing always at my side. You guard me from the foe, and you lead me in ways everlasting.

How about from Be Not Afraid:

Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come, follow me. And I will give you rest.

And, while it’s not my all-time favorite, it’s the one that has the most impact on me, On Eagle’s Wings:

And he will raise you up, on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn. Make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.

Yup, that’s the one. It was played at my dad’s funeral, as well as my brother’s.

And, it was played at the one I went to today.

A family that is amazingly close to me lost a loved one after a long battle. This was a woman who had four children, 16 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren. An immigrant who chased the American dream. A simple, yet prosperous life in so many ways.

And I was proud to be there to support my friends. It was a beautiful service. Simple, just like her.

And then On Eagle’s Wings came on.

And I lost it.

Absolutely lost it.

See, while I love funerals for all of the above, the tradition, the music etc.

I also hate funerals. I’m sorry, was that not strong enough? I HATE funerals.

Because, now, every time I go to one I revisit so much from my past. And I’m not talking about being an altar server. I’m talking about being a son and a brother.

I watch someone make it through a eulogy without breaking down and think, “I wish I could do that.”

I tried to sing the song today. I opened my mouth and no words came out. None. It was like I lost my voice. The music started and I got chills. And then I was sobbing.

Good timing, too, because it was right as the family was coming down the aisle. So here we are, at a funeral for their grandmother and they are supporting me. Yup, that’s how it was supposed to be.

But, I can’t  help it. For me, that’s how it will always be.

So afterwards, once we made it out of the church, I went to see my friend, I hugged him and said, “You know I’m not good at these things.”

He said, “I know, but you’re here. And we can’t thank you enough.”

And then after his mom and sister both gave me tissues, I sat in my car and cried some more — waiting for all of the cars to depart.

And then, after a while, I started my trip back home and a funny thing  happened, in the quiet of my own car, and in the midst of my own wandering thoughts, I opened my mouth to try and sing that song, and with the memory of my dad, my brother and my friends’ grandmother, the words came out.


Don’t Block the Light

So yesterday had the makings of a really great day.

I know, listen to me! But it’s true.

Remember the crying at work episode? Well, while you don’t know the whole story, isn’t that enough? The good news is that the people that were upset with me had a meeting with my bosses. Things were smoothed over. Enough to the point that they called me immediately after that meeting and invited me to lunch to “mend fences and clear the air.”

I was nervous. But it went well. Very well. So much that the relationship is still alive and has a chance to grow. The keys? Honesty and humility. And no defensiveness. That last part is the trickiest for me.

And, someone I work with actually commented that I seemed to be in a much better mood lately. Wow. That was both a good thing and a bad thing. I guess I have been showing some signs…but I guess I also have started to turn it around.

I feel like I have. I feel like looking through that long, dark tunnel that there’s a speck of light there that I haven’t seen in a long time.

At least until last night. And this morning.

Had the worst night sleep I’ve had in a really long time. Why? Not totally sure, but it had something to do with an absolutely ridiculous dream that actually made me get up and go check something in our basement (don’t ask).

Then, Aidan was off the wall this morning — making our hour together a complete and utter challenge. When you’re in the midst of that, it’s hard to focus on that he’s probably tired, still fighting some sick stuff and probably nervous about school today. It’s easy to think about after the fact, but not always during the process.

And, have a meeting in just a bit with someone that I have a very hard time communicating with — and that’s something I need to work on. Thankfully, have a colleague in the meeting with me who can read me and will give a sign if I’m heading down a wrong path. Good to have a battle buddy with you.

A little nervous about later today. Appointment with a different counselor (easier to say this time!). Remember the new therapy thing I mentioned last time? Well, first session today to see if it’s going to be a good option — and I believe it is. I want it to be.

And tonight, well, I step back to 1876 to do something I absolutely love. It’s a time for a 100 percent escape from modern day and focus on some simpler things.

Sounds like a great concept, doesn’t it?