I attend a lot of funerals. Some to mourn, some to play. Some to do both. I am fairly certain I have played more funerals than weddings (243); sometimes I can go a month without a funeral, but I have, on the other hand, played 5 services in a single week.
A few weeks ago, the daughter of the 106-year-old woman who died read the poem "The Dash" at Mass. Do you know it? You can read it here.* To sum it up, what happened in the years between your birth and death -- the dash on your headstone?
Norma, a sweet woman in our church died last week; her funeral is on Tuesday. I got to know her in the past few years, as we served funeral dinners together, and she and her sister, Evelyn, helped out so much with Father Sheets' 50th Anniversary party. I sat next to her at D of I meetings, and we would talk and laugh. She always complemented my playing, and I complemented her pie baking. It was a sweet friendship.
But when I read her obituary, I realized how much I didn't know about her. I had assumed she was a widow, but she had never married. I assumed the man with Down Syndrome that she cared for until he died was her son, but he was her brother.
Norma's life was long -- 82 years. A lot went on in the world and in her life in those 82 years. The dash isn't how long and detailed your obituary is, listing your degrees, jobs, clubs. It's about what you have done for others.
Her simple obituary, besides listing her relatives and church membership, stated only that she was a "caregiver for her family."
I think maybe that is the very best thing to be.
May she rest in peace.
*This is the kind of poem I need to write -- the author, Linda Ellis, has developed a little industry from this poem -- books, prints, DVD's. Wonder if I could do that with my skunk poem?