I have just spent most of a day thinking about a friend who recently died. I had the opportunity to join her family and friends at her funeral. I knew – and was content to hear from those who knew my friend longer and deeper – that she was not afraid to die. She was confident that God and her loved ones who had gone to God before her, would meet her. Funerals are for the living. As someone reminded those gathered, a Quaker memorial meeting is said to be for the purpose of giving thanks for the grace of God as shown in the life of the person who has died. It is meant to be a worshipful appreciation of the gifts of God to that person, and how he or she has been able to use them to make the world a better place. This was one of my friend’s aims as well, to make the world a better place. And she did.
It was incredibly beautiful to hear the loving stories told by those who knew her well, people appreciating how she had brought contributions to their lives. That is the legacy of each of us, what we give to those around us. And it is the legacy also of the recipients. The grace of God in her life: the faith and the gifts she could share, the love I’ve written about in last week’s blog post, showering those around and not being selective of only those who made themselves worthy.
Quakers are people, too – people with obvious faults and defects. Lack of chartiy is one which has become extremely obivous to me over the past number of years. It is so sad to me that not everyone present at the funeral could focus their appreciation on the person we were gathered to appreciate. So, for example, one person felt it necessary to include a few critisms. True, none of us is perfect. So what? What does it bring you to critcise another, except perhaps some selfish comfort that you might think your own faults are not as bad at the other? God does not compare us. God knows that each of us has gifts, and that with strengths come complementary weaknesses. What good does including criticism do, I wonder, except show that the generosity of love had not yet reached the person speaking. It highlighted the selfishness and lack of loving self-confidence of the speaker. It highlighted for me how my friend’s gift of simply caring, not judging, making a bit of extra effort to share joy and show caring, had made this friendship so special for me.
And the loving stories by her family and friends – funny anecdotes and reminders to stay silly sometimes and to retain one’s quirky commitment to creativity and reusing envelopes – made me think, why do we wait for someone to die or be in the process of dying, before we tell about our experiences of love? Why do we not gather and, in love, tell each other stories about what we appreciate about those who are still with us and will be for years to come? Where is our love?