I don’t like funerals. But I imagine that is true for most folks. Even the most lovely of funerals – the ones that can successfully focus your attention on a celebration of life – still carry the underlying reality of the loss of a loved one. Losing folks we love hurts – plain and simple. So, even the best funerals are like a bitter pill served in a delicious bite of cake – it makes swallowing the pill a bit easier, but you are still taking the damn pill.
Yesterday I went to my friend Janna’s funeral service in Bismarck. When they opened up the service for folks to share remembrances of Janna I wasn’t going to say anything. I know that my ability to keep myself composed at funerals is limited. I am afflicted, particularly at funerals, with a condition I call “sympathetic crying”. I tend to mirror the emotions of the family when I see or talk to them and it matters not the extent to which I know the family or even the deceased. It can be decidedly awkward, particularly when I am at a funeral to support someone else who knew the person who passed. There really is no logical way to explain my reaction to their grief.
So I avoid funerals when I can, but in some instances I cannot. There are some that I go to out of love and respect and others that I go to out of obligation – but when I go, I try to keep my emotions in check. I do this by, as much as possible, trying to avoid a sympathetic crying jag.
Which is why I wasn’t going to say anything when the time came in the service to share remembrances of Janna. I really hoped I would just sit there and say nothing while others said things I was thinking, but they didn’t say what I was thinking. I knew the second I resigned myself to getting up and sharing my memories of Janna that I was treading into perilous waters. I had to go to the front of the church near Janna’s casket to speak. From where I stood I could see Janna’s husband, and my friend, Don. In the moment when I took the microphone and looked at Don I realized that I was sure to fall apart right there if I did not purposefully look away. Sympathetic crying is bad, but at the front of the church with a microphone in hand it is really bad.
I got through my thoughts without a breakdown – thank goodness. That made me happy because I knew I owed my girl Janna at least that. I use my voice for so many things that are so much less important than that moment was at Janna’s funeral – the moment when I had an opportunity to honor her and the gifts she gave to me. I wasn’t eloquent or profound – I was just me without apology, just like Janna was all the days I knew her.
On the front of the memorial handout under a photo of Janna it said, “My favorite color is plaid.” That was a classic Janna line. It is amazing how much you can understand about Janna’s personality from that statement – she was unconventional, mischievous, joyful, and unafraid to write her own script. When I saw the plaid line on the handout I cried a bit. Not sympathetic tears for others, but tears of my own in recognition of the friend that I had lost.
Day one thousand one hundred and ninety-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da