Today we celebrated the life of the friend who died a few weeks ago, in a lovely memorial service held in the parish hall of an old church festooned with gargoyles. This wasn’t a funeral and wasn’t about a religious ritual. Instead, friends and family gathered and shared stories of her life and discovered things about her that we hadn’t known. We looked a pictures and ate yummy sandwiches and desserts, and listened to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a solo cello, played in honor of our friend who played in orchestras and musical groups.
I knew her in only one aspect of her life but here I had a chance to have that part overlap with all the others. The library people met the programmers who met the orchestra members who met the woodworkers who met the horticulture specialists. One life touches so many others in quiet ways, but many of us had heard stories of others or at least of things we had done with our friend, so it was like a reunion more than anything else. A happy occasion that we wish we didn’t have to have at all.
But there was satisfaction in knowing that the celebration was what she wanted because she had told her spouse what mattered. That is such an amazing gift. My parents have done the same, although they continue to tweak their ideas as they go to more funerals or memorial services. Mom collects them in a folder along with other important documents so we won’t have to scramble to find them or tear out our hair to make decisions when we are too heartbroken to think clearly.
Today we were sad but not depressed, remembering and celebrating a life and not simply mourning a death. There is such a difference and there is a time and place for both.