Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Celebration of Life

So we're at this funeral. Not just ~a~ funeral, but one for a close friend. We haven't been friends for hundreds of years, but we've been dear friends, we've been near friends, we've been there-for-you-friends.

Anyway, it's a big funeral, lots of folks and oddly enough, not a lot of tears. I mean, there were tears, but it wasn't a sob-fest like you might be used to. I saw tons of smiles, shaking hands, hugs, heard laughter and chuckles, and maybe some of that was because we brought our baby boy Finn with us. He's six weeks old. Little guy. He was hard to hold because everyone wanted to hold him. Finn was good, too. He didn't cry.

You see, not even the baby cried.

Now, it wasn't for lack of sorrow that this was not the usual sob-fest. It was because of who we were celebrating. And there's a word I want you to remember -- ~celebration~.

This was less of a funeral and more of a celebration. There was no need for anyone to spin it that way, nor did he have to insist people remember him fondly or with a smile. It was a simple extension of his personality, a gentle man, a wise man, a man of mistakes who learned from those mistakes and blamed only himself when he faulted, all the while crediting his success to those around him.

So the Father, or Preacher, or Reverend, I'm not sure what you call him -- he's Episcopalian and I'm lucky to spell that word without the spell-checker (a minor miracle I spelled it correctly!), and anyway I don't know what they call the church leader. I'll just call him the Father, for sake of argument, and because I like the sound of it.

Anyway, the Father gets up and he knows the man, and he says some nice words about him, and then four people line up for the eulogy.

Yep, you read that right. Four people. Have you ever been to a funeral -- nay sayeth I, a ~celebration~ of life -- that required four people to speak? First a childhood friend. Then a son. Then a granddaughter. Then another granddaughter. All of them shared joyous moments, and it's a credit to the man that his children and his children's children spoke so eloquently, so plainly, so heartfeltedly and magnificently that you cannot help but see his influence on their hearts.

The friend goes first, and she relates his childhood, and apparently he never quite grew up. Of course we already knew that, but it was nice to have validation.

Then the son. Now his son is an atheist. The man himself was a staunch Christian, albeit a Christian scientist and engineer, a nuclear physicist for all intents and purposes. So his son apologizes for not being a man of faith, or a believer I think is how he put it. He gets up and says, and I paraphrase, horribly, so please excuse me, he says, I'm not a believer, but I'll do my best.

He then goes on about particles and the Cosmos, and he wraps it up by saying, I'm not a believer, but I really like this quote, so let me read it to you.

Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.

― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Holy crap, right! What a perfect quote for a Christian scientist.

And if that doesn't sound like God at work I don't know what to tell you. We are all connected, and we are in God and God is in us. I bastardize the poor guy's quote for my own purposes because that's how I roll.

Now the first granddaughter gets up and she goes on about how her Cap -- that's what they call him, Cap, because he was a Navy Captain -- always went on about how important math and science are. You see why that Tyson quote was so perfect, yes?

The second granddaughter shuts down the room with her speech. It was so moving and perfect that you felt the room swell with her words. She's young, barely a teenager, but those words were steeped in wisdom and understanding beyond what most people achieve in a lifetime. Everyone in the room thought the same thing I thought -- she gets it from him. He was like that, too.

She sits down and the other granddaughter and the son and the friend sit down, and the Father comes back to the front, claps his hands, smiles, and says, paraphrased horribly, I want to thank you for those words. And for the atheist, I personally believe this church was built to be filled with atheists.

We all laugh. Laughter at a funeral. You see what I mean? A celebration of life.

The whole day was like that, as was his life, as will be his afterlife and the lingering lives he touched, all of them filled with a little more laughter and a bigger smile and wiser words and maybe a little extra math and science, all of which I believe we could use a bit more of.

He will be missed and remembered fondly, and above all he will be celebrated.

Celebrate in Peace, John Marshall.

- Eric

Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novels Out of the Great Black Nothing and Wink from WiDo Publishing, out now! See more of Eric's work here: Publications, or order directly from Amazon, or wherever books are sold.



T. Powell Coltrin said...

God is working in all creations whether they believe or not.

By the way, when I die, I don't want a funeral, I want a celebration where there is lots of laughter and shared memories. What a great thing.

Great post, Eric.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I am sorry your friend is no longer here, but obviously he had an incredible impact on those around him. God was definitely present during that funeral. Or rather, celebration.

I went to a friend's celebration of life several years ago and it was incredibly powerful. And yes, with much laughter.

randi lee said...

I'm sorry for you loss, but also glad that everyone was able to look back and reflect upon the impact your friend had on the world.

dolorah said...

People were like this at my Dad's funeral. He lived a good life, and was ready to go when his time came. In fact - knowing the end was near for him - he said he was happy that family would have an excuse for a reunion.

We smiled over lots of things; stories and pictures of his life, things he enjoyed, treasures nobody understood but himself. Yep, a celebration of a good life.


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