One of the advantages of being “home” is being able to attend important events like family weddings and funerals.
We’ve lived away for so many years that we’ve missed most of these key family events.
While it sounds morbid, I’ve been reminded of how much I love a funeral.
I’m not talking about the heartbreakingly sad funerals for people who suffer from tragic, untimely deaths, I’m talking about funerals for people who have lived long, full lives and are ready for the next step in their journey.
We went to one of these funerals last week for Doug’s Aunt Marge who was 102 years old.
A hundred and two years old.
Now, that’s a long, full life.
This was not a depressing, mournful event. It was more like a happy celebration of life, family, and faith.
There was laughter, hugging, reminiscing and story telling. There were reunions of cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings.
And there was joy — a lot of deep, down-to -the-core joy and appreciation for being part of a sprawling family with a noble heritage.
Doug’s aunt lived in the little town of Holden, Utah where the current population is about 375 people.
Doug and his family walked around the cemetery and pointed out graves of ancestors — Mormon pioneers whose stories of courage and faith are legendary.
As we drove around this cozy little hometown, I heard stories about water fights with Grandma, trips to the only store in town to redeem pop bottles for penny candy, and sleepovers on the back porch.
Doug mentioned “The Holden Effect” and said he’d like to learn more about how that little town has affected so many people with roots there. I enjoyed feeling the “The Holden Effect” while there for just a day.
I think this effect has more to do with the people and the families that have lived there than the actual place. Its the family memories in that quaint little town that create the special effect.
We loved being immersed in the warm pool of familial love in Holden, and felt the truth behind Henry B. Eyring’s words that “When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves.”
A core Mormon doctrine is that family life is eternal and that after this earth life, we will be reunited with those we love. This helps ease the pain of goodbyes and provides hope for future reunions.
I always leave a Mormon funeral feeling a renewal of my faith in that doctrine.
While standing at the burial site on a small hill overlooking the town, I was struck by the fact that even though we go through life forging countless relationships, in the end, our big lives and our big circles of friends shrink down to a strikingly small number of mostly family members standing together near the casket, saying goodbye.
It’s an interesting phenomena in today’s world that we can amass and stay in contact with hundreds or even thousands of friends through social media, but in the end, how many of them are the kind of friends that will show up (and travel!) to our funerals?
No matter where we go in life, and no matter how much we contribute to this big, wide world, it’s the contributions we make to our families that matter most.
If we’re lucky, we have a few cherished friends that are like family. I’m blessed with some of those friends. And, I hope they are around to attend my funeral.
But, for most of us, it will be our family members standing at the pulpit paying tribute to our lives, extolling our virtues, laughing at our quirks, and retelling our funny stories.
Being reminded of that truth is one of the reasons I love a good funeral.