Yesterday I witnessed one of my lifelong friends eulogize his 59 year-old father that passed at the hands of ALS. Yesterday I remembered many of the great times that I had experienced with his dad, and at a certain point, I inevitably imagined what my life would be like without my father.
Wrestling with mortality is daunting at any age, and while the focus of yesterday’s proceedings were appropriately and passionately centered on a man that made so many others better, I couldn’t help but think deeply about his family–namely his son. My focus on his son, my friend, aims not to exclude or discount anyone else relative to the immediate family; instead, I see him as that person that I can relate to most. Maybe this is because of our past, but I think it runs deeper than that. I think it has everything to do with the fact that I see our relationships with our fathers as somewhat similar–and for that reason, yesterday, a day that many described as unreal, was all too real.
While any funeral service seeks to memorialize, I believe it should also implore its attendees to think and consider how they live their lives. Yesterday did just that for me–and isn’t that what our departed would want? How can we live our lives to honor theirs, embolden our own, and stop from time to time to recognize the undeniable connections? In thinking of my own life and the hopes that I have for what I will be able to one day leave behind for those I love, I pray that what I will have taught and given them will leave them with the feelings that so many people displayed yesterday when remembering a great man.
To respond to the aforementioned questions and ideas is a challenging task, though I believe my friend has already begun. He suggested that just days before his father’s service, he felt a ray of light strike his shoulder in a way that he knew it was his father guiding, calming, strengthening, and reminding him of his love. When hearing this, and viewing his emotion under duress, I was moved in a multitude of ways. This is when I thought about my father. This is when I knew that my friend has and will continue to feel great pain. Yet this is also when I knew that in some ways, this pain was made possible only by the love that physically, not spiritually, left his life.
The inevitability of losing a loved one struck him, and his entire family, far too soon. The passing of my friend’s father has made me contemplate my relationships, the status of my family members, and how I wish to live. It has made me look deep into my son’s eyes and promise him that I will teach him and love him. And many of those lessons and feelings of love will stem from interactions not just from great days spent with my father, but from indescribable moments and time spent with his father, too.