I have just got back from the funeral of a 16 year old friend of ours, Michael, who died suddenly, in tragic circumstances (not that the circumstances can be anything other than tragic when death strikes at just 16 years old). As we left the church and watched the coffin being loaded into the hearse, I was struck by the sheer size of the community that had turned out to show their love and support for this gorgeous family.
We were gathering around them to show our support, and the group kept having to shuffle around to make room. In fact it would probably have taken a football field or two to fit all of the people who were standing shoulder to shoulder, supporting the family and each other by
the sheer fact of their presence – and that’s just the ones who were physically able to be there. I know of a much larger number of people who could not make it to the funeral, yet they stand just as firmly as part of that supportive community.
This is a particularly special family. They have always had a gift for creating communities around them – drawing people together, loving and supporting them in a complete embodiment of the Christian ideal. They are now reaping what they have sown, as their friends and neighbours rally around them in a hundred different ways.
I must admit that before the funeral I was fighting a sense of gasping, desperate panic, lost in the enormity of what had happened, and drowning in both my own grief and my horror at the lifelong burden our friends now have to bear. The funeral, though, was a great relief. There were, of course, floods of tears. I was far too choked up to sing, even though I knew the hymns, and I usually find great solace in singing.
But there was great therapy in taking part in the outpouring of grief, and also in the happy memories of Michael. The speeches painted a vivid and glowing picture of him, and highlighted the love that unites us all. Love for Michael, love for his family, and our love and
concern for each other.
This is why funerals are important. They provide an opportunity to support each other. To share our grief and remember the good stuff. To hug each other tightly and reaffirm our commitment to friends and family. And to remember that we are not alone – that others share both the trauma and the laughter, and that life goes on.
There were kids at the funeral, and the occasional squeals during the ceremony – whether of delight or outrage – were a poignant affirmation that even in the bleakest times the sun still shines, children still play, and our hearts keep beating, even when they feel unbearably
crushed and broken.
The sun was noticeably absent today – it was a grey, cold and drizzly day that matched my mood on the way to the funeral. Although it was no warmer when we left, and the clouds had in fact descended even lower to enfold us in a misty gloom, my heart was lighter and I could finally see a way forward – hand in hand with everyone who ever knew and loved Michael.