WHEN REAL LIFE INTERRUPTS OUR "NORMAL" ROUTINE, SEEK JOY
Adele Cox, MA
Youniversoul Thoughts: The Funeral
I went to a funeral today. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to hear that. Most
adults have been to at least one funeral in their lives, and know that it's one of the
more difficult events we’re called to do. The pastor opened the service by saying "we're
all having mixed feelings of sadness, anger, and loss" but he prayed that we would also
be able to feel joy as we remembered our loved one's life, and that "on this day, seek joy".
I've been to six funerals in the past seven years, and each time it's been a challenge to
feel joy. I know cognitively through my own spiritual work that the joy is in me, but when
the loss and sadness are still so fresh, joy feels very far away. After the service I said
to a friend, "knowing that I'm going to feel acceptance and joy tomorrow doesn't make my
anger and sadness any easier today". She responded, "knowing that we are spirits having a
human experience doesn't make it easier to be human". I think I really needed to hear that.
It also reminded me that every loss we experience brings up the grief of every other loss,
and that helped make it OK for me to not only grieve the loss of my friend today, but to say
another set of goodbyes for those I knew and those I didn't know as well (including Tammy
Faye Messner, Pete Wilson, Albert Ellis, and Coach Bill Walsh who all passed away in the
last few days).
I don't have a lesson that I'm looking to impart today, but I am reminded of the proverbial
sayings, "whatever you're feeling now is OK", and "our feelings are part of being human". One
feeling (or perhaps just an awareness) that I had was how distant we can become from each other.
Sitting at my friend's service, I realized I didn't know how long it'd been since I'd last
seen her. I know that type of realization can bring guilt, but I didn't feel that. Instead,
I'd say I felt more perturbed at how we live our busy lives distant and disconnected from
each other, often giving empty promises to keep in touch. We send each other chain-letter
emails and text messages, we go to movies, we tell each other we're "fine" – but do we feel
As I looked around the service at the faces of dozens of grieving strangers, I wondered,
when we leave here, will we go back into our separate, distant lives? Will we go back to
being road-ragers, red-light-runners, line-jumpers, sidewalk-rushers, elevator-elbowers,
crowd-pushers? Or can our loss serve to change how we see ourselves in the world?
I think my sense of perturb got tweaked because I'm afraid that after the initial sting
of the loss has softened, our lives (mine included) will pretty much go back to "normal".
I remember hours after the September 11 tragedy, hearing the President encouraging us to
go back to "normal", to keep flying and shopping and living our American lives, to be "fine".
I realized then and again now, I don't want to "go back to being fine". I don't want to only
celebrate the lives and hearts and dreams and joys of my friends and family members at their
funerals. When I came home after the service, my first thought was I'd like to call or
write everyone I know and say, "I went to a funeral today, and I wanted to let you know,
now, that you're important to me and that I'm glad I've known you."
"Death is just another part of life" is a phrase I've heard many times, but each time I
hear it, I notice it doesn't relate to anything my human experience can understand. But
there's a line from the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" that does have meaning for me,
especially today: "Get busy living, or get busy dying". Not busy doing, not busy achieving,
not busy getting, not busy "fine" and "normal". But living, even if only a small part of
each day; being in the present moment, taking a moment to reflect on the joy of being alive,
taking a moment in gratitude for the people in our lives, taking a moment to breathe,
taking a moment to be. Then maybe running one less red light, letting one person in line
ahead of you, smiling to one homeless person ... and telling someone you haven't talked
to in a long time why you're glad to have known them. I think that's living, and I think
living is where we find the joy the pastor prayed for.
May you spread joy today.
I welcome your comments. Feel free to contact me directly at
AdeleCox@Youniversoul.com. Until next time, stay well.
Posted by Adele Cox, MA, CMT on Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 11:19 AM.
Note: Click here to see all my blog postings at "Youniversoul Thoughts",