Yesterday I went to a funeral. Like most people, I really don’t like going to funerals, and certainly even fewer people actually look forward to them. But they always make me think, often about subjects that we don’t think about as often as we should.
A funeral brings together so many people from so many different parts of the person’s life, and even then the assembled crowd will likely only represent a small portion of the people whose lives one touched in some way.
The one I attended yesterday was a bit different for me in that I did not see a single familiar face, and not one person there knew me either. That made it easier in some ways since the tears that I witnessed were all those of strangers. But it was also more difficult, as my misery had no company.
I have attended funerals of people I had never met before, most often in cases of family members of friends or acquaintances, where my presence was out of respect for the person that I knew who had lost a loved one. But yesterday was the opposite. The man who passed away, “Stan”, was the only one I knew. I knew a bit about his family, but I had never met them.
Stan was a business associate that I had known for several years, and we had worked together on a couple of very important occasions. I liked Stan as a person and respected him as a businessman. That we had spoken recently and planned to meet for lunch sometime soon made it even harder to deal with his passing.
Our paths had crossed a number of times and he always stayed in touch. When I saw his name on my called ID, I always answered with a smile on my face, and in my voice. When we met face to face, it was also with mutual smiles and a firm handshake.
So as I sat there in the chapel listening to the words and hymns, I started to wonder what it was that made me enjoy Stan’s company and respect him as a person. And it should come as no surprise that the things that came up were just about all things that we have in common.
Stan did things differently. He was not “just another _______”. He had a lot going for him and did not see things the way most people did. He did not feel the need to be just like everyone else, even when fitting in would have made his life easier.
He was smart and stubborn, but in a good way, as far as I was concerned. He earned my respect because I understood that when he represented me, I knew that he was concerned for me first. I loved that about Stan. But unfortunately that made him an exception. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if there were more people like Stan.
Stan’s niece started off the eulogy reading a text written by her father, Stan’s younger brother. Just seeing him from afar, it was clear why he had asked his daughter to speak for him. We all heard of their great childhood memories growing up together and some of the silly stories that always do wonders for brightening the mood at these otherwise sad events.
Stan’s daughter spoke next. She fought back her tears courageously as she talked about what a great father he was and how much she and her brother looked up to him. I had never met Stan’s children, but having known him it was not hard to tell that they were his flesh and blood.
I hope that what they learned from him will stay with them for a long time. Look around you at those you will leave behind some day, waaaay off in the future, we hope. Don’t take things for granted. And don’t be afraid to do things your own way.