I attended a celebration of life today. The man whose life we were celebrating was a man I never knew. I happen to be the daughter of the cousin of the wife who was mourning.
Funerals and thank you notes…two nonnegotiable acts in my family. You express gratitude when someone gifts you, whether it’s with their presence, an item, or good advice. You make a point to show gratitude toward people who make a point of showing they’re thinking of you.
You attend a funeral when someone you love, or have loved, is grieving. I attended the funeral of an ex’s father, long after we’d broken up and ceased talking. Because when someone is grieving, we show up.
The service today was a test for me. Since losing my son seven years ago, there have only been a handful of funerals I’ve attended. Two for my peers, who left the earth as young parents with small children. I felt I could comfort those people. My grief is so different.
But I have not been able to get myself to funerals for the parents of my peers. I lost my son. I cannot lose my parents. I know that I will, but for a long time I couldn’t even entertain the thought that I could remain a part of this earth without the people who gave me life.
Today was beautiful. The music, the energy, and the tributes. This man was universally loved. And he universally loved.
His widow told a story about a man who had clinically died, only to be revived and awake with an incredible story. He was waiting in line to speak with Jesus. And Jesus asked each soul in line, “Did you learn how to love?”
It’s a question we should each ask ourselves, as often as possible. His wife finished her tribute and said, “when he arrived in Heaven, I can only imagine that Jesus welcomed and said, ‘well done.’” Because he mastered the art of love.
I needed to hear that. I know that my son and I are connected and that we will be together again. And I feel confident that when I depart this earth that I can say that I learned to love.
I needed that affirmation today. I needed to see that a celebration of life doesn’t have to feel traumatic and sad. Not for someone who has lived a life surrounded by and offering unconditional love. If you learn how to love—especially yourself—then your life is worth celebrating.
I am worth celebrating. And I will spend the rest of forever perfecting the art of true, selfless, empathetic love. For as many souls as possible.