I recently had the experience of saying goodbye to a good friend and close relative. Alzheimer’s had been taking her away from us for several years, but once again I was reminded there is no door more powerful than death to awaken and reconnect us with life’s priorities.
Death is the messenger that reminds us that the structures of our lives are impermanent.
The family, scattered around the country, gathered for the funeral in a small but quaint church built in the 1800’s. Kind words and memories were shared. The tears evident during the service were a testament to how much she was loved. Afterwards, the family retired to her home where her husband and children hosted a cookout; an opportunity for family and friends to come together, spend time with one another, and share some of the details of their lives.
As I moved from conversation to conversation I was aware of the openness and vulnerability present as family members talked with one another. The need to reconnect was tangible. Many of the conversations were about the meaning of life in general, the struggles and challenges they were currently facing in their lives, and the importance of using ones gifts to make a contribution to the world.
The theme of time ran through many of the conversations. There was an underlying awareness in many of the conversations of how limited our time really is; and how important it is to not waste the time we have. The tone was reflective. There were moments of silence.
It was as if the sadness of the day was somehow balanced with the need to live a larger life. It wasn’t spoken aloud, but there seemed to be an awareness that the depth and meaning of life needed to be reexamined; that connections with family and friends needed to be strengthened.
The warmth and laughter heard that afternoon reminded me of the importance of family and friends. I thought a lot on the three-day drive back to Redmond about the importance of showing up for life and learning to be fully present to the experience.
Sometimes the death of a friend, while sad, can be a powerful reminder to live life fully awakened. We honor our friends by remembering them.