If I’m being honest, attending a funeral service affects me most because it forces me to consider my own mortality. Maybe that conclusion is selfish, and maybe my feelings surrounding death are more complicated than I really pretend to know, but as I stand before those that have passed on, I think of them, their family, and then my own being.
As a child, I didn’t take much from a funeral. I processed life differently, and I accepted the world around me with little resistance. Now, I question the human experience, I reflect on the fragile nature of existence, and I try with diligence to appreciate seemingly regular moments. I was especially impacted this past weekend, as I attended the viewing of a peer that I had once went to college with. He unexpectedly passed earlier last week–30 years old and full of promise for the years to come.
Oddly, not many things inspire and ground me like a funeral service. As I drove home from the viewing after paying my respects, I felt overwhelmed. I even called my dad to explain how this particular service caught me most vulnerable. Never had I been at a viewing of a friend my age, and never had I contemplated how that friend was once a child. As I gazed at pictures of his youth while navigating the long line of friends and family, I thought about my childhood, and I considered how my son would grow and evolve. I prayed especially hard for my friend and his family, and I paid extra attention to my son when I came home that morning.
In congruence with these recent events, one of my classes is currently studying the concept of worldviews in hopes of further development. Maybe it is great happenstance that this particular unit has come at a time when I am reviewing how I see the world, my functions within it, and consequent impacts. Regardless, it is interesting to watch teenagers wrestle with humanity, as I recall holding some similar views at such an age. Many of them have agreed that people are inevitably affected by their environments, though they are wise enough to recognize their role in helping shape their environment, too. Though what has caught my eye most is their thoughts of equality, fairness, and privilege–a matter that will tie back to the events of this weekend and my evolving understanding of mortality and life.
An overwhelming majority of my students made clear distinctions between equality, fairness, and privilege. Perhaps the greatest conclusion that students arrived at focused on the notion that while they (most of them) believe all humans deserve a fair shake, that is not the reality we live among. “Life isn’t fair” is a theme that emerged, though it ran much deeper than the standard shoulder shrug associated with the phrase–a shrug often attributed to discontent among tough times. Instead, many suggested that life simply can’t be fair–some people try harder than others, and some are born among circumstances deemed more opportune than others. Interestingly, as these conclusions were born, some students began to shift and contend that perhaps life is actually relatively fair–if those trying harder are reaping greater benefit, then aren’t they entitled to corresponding privileges? Though the idea of fairness isn’t always this simple–sometimes it can be downright confusing and opposed to logic, and I believe that is when we can find ourselves suggesting that life is not terribly fair. And that is how I felt this past weekend as I left the funeral home–it didn’t feel fair that my peer had left the world so young, and it surely didn’t feel right.
Whenever I try to make sense of the world, I discover that I know less than the last time I engaged in the process of inquiry, reflection, and painful contemplation. Though I am not discouraged by such; instead, I am grateful that I am equipped to render intellectual and spiritual thought, I am happy to further my growth, and I am inspired that there is seemingly limitless perspective and experience to these questions I have. I hope that I may only continue to explore among the joy and pain that our existence offers.