I have a personal philosophy about funerals and it is this: If at all possible, always attend a funeral for someone you knew. My faith tells me that. Now this may not be what all Christians see in their faith, but I see it.
Sometimes I wish I did not have this philosophy. Still, there it is.
Early May 12, my aunt Mercedes passed away. My immediate response is that I need to go. Cancel this, and cancel that. Just go. And yet, when I delve into my reasons for getting in a car and driving six hours, it is not just about my personal philosophy; I go for my mother as well.
Here’s the backstory: Mercedes, repeatedly and regularly, treated my mother horribly when my mother was young. This was far beyond sisterly rivalry; her actions were frequently quite mean and abusive. Everyone in the family recognizes that as a known fact and it has become part of the family “story,” such as it is. Since there is nothing that will get the defensive ire of a boy going more than to know his mama has been treated poorly, it is safe to say that Mercedes was not exactly my favorite relative as I grew up.
But then (and there is much beauty in that “but, then”), my mother became quite ill with cancer in 2000. It spread to her liver and soon ravaged her body. We all took turns caring for her. But guess who showed up big-time? That’s right, Mercedes.
My mother was too proud to have us kids see her partially unclothed as we would rush in when she cried out at night or needed something. It was Mercedes who slept on a cot in the same room so she could be right there. In the end, it was Mercedes.
My mother died Dec. 28, 2000. I do not know if they ever reconciled hard feelings before she died. And so I get in my car and go, not just because it is my personal philosophy, but rather because I want to say thank you. Where is it more appropriate to bear witness to the fact that sins of the past are forever washed away and a future filled with love awaits than at a Christian funeral?
I am glad I have the personal philosophy to always attend a funeral. Sometimes it can be quite difficult, and on occasion impossible. Yet one of the most powerful and humbling things I have ever seen is a church at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday filled with inconvenienced people who believe in going to a funeral.
If at all possible, always attend a funeral for someone you knew. My faith tells me that.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.