Why You Should Attend a Funeral

The Dash by Linda EllisLife is so precious. We say it when we hear of a tragedy, when somebody has died before their time- but how often do we stop and really give those words much thought in regards to our own lives?

I recently attended the funeral of an old classmate Brian, the brother of my dear friend. I have added yet another question to my “why?” list for God. How is it that someone so young who has worked so hard to be at such a good place in his life, is taken away without fully being able to enjoy it?

I was really surprised/disappointed that I didn’t see more familiar faces from high school. I realize that funerals are not events that we seek out to attend, but maybe we should. When we hear that someone we know dies, we may feel a little sadness, express pity for the family, and then go about our day. But to attend a funeral service makes us reflect more on our own lives. If God chose to take this person, who says that he won’t choose you next? Are you ready for that? Likely, no. And God or no God- if this was your last year to live, are there things you would change? Um, probably. But when we read an obituary or hear about a death, we don’t examine that stuff. We don’t sit long enough with that pit in our stomach that tells us we could be doing things differently. Is it scary? Hell yes. Especially if we aren’t on the path we should be. But if sitting with that pit gets us to change our route, helps us live better, then isn’t that worth it?

To those who don’t go to funerals because you didn’t know the person that well, I say go anyway. It fills the family with a sort of joy or satisfaction to see a room full of people for support and to remember with them. They want to hear your stories, your memories, so they know their loved one is living on in the hearts of others.

If you don’t go to funerals because they depress you, or make you uncomfortable, that’s all the more reason to go. The closure to life that a funeral brings will remind you that your life is finite and you only have one shot here. Whatever you believe is on the other side, I’m confident that nobody is ready to find out tomorrow what it is like. And before I do, I’ve got a few dreams to live and legacies to leave behind.

I never thought I’d advocate attending a funeral like I try to convince people to read my favorite author. But I sat through a 37-year-old man being eulogized. That hit way too close to home. This wasn’t a grandpa, this wasn’t a 90-year-old “it was his time” kind, it was my peer. So the new cycle begins? Weddings, babies, divorces, now this? No way. Not yet. I’m not ready.

I reflected a lot during the service, but my best take away was from the reception. As I drank my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale beer in honor of Brian, The Dave Mathews Band lyrics played…Celebrate we will, for life is short but sweet for certain….I absorbed this moment because I had just been told that the songs being played were from Brian’s iPod playlist. It was all too timely and with a lump in my throat I was able to say goodbye and make promises to myself about making the most out of life.

If you are sans a funeral to attend, this poem may get you thinking. After all, life is so precious.

The Dash
​I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
​the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

​So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
By Linda Ellis

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  1. […] started writing earlier this week about grief and it turned into me on a soapbox about why everyone needs to attend a funeral once in a while. So I split these into two posts to give this one the platform it […]

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