I went to a funeral after work tonight. I know. How did I get so lucky as to go to such an event on a Friday night.
It was no one I knew. I left work, dropped my computer at home since it was right there on the way, stopped at the gas station, and drove blasting music and smoking cigarettes all the damn way there, and then I sprayed the hell out of myself and my car.
The funeral was for a co-worker’s father. Our company is divided into two main offices, with 90% of us in Missouri, if you don’t count the numerous properties in multiple states both functioning and under construction. I do a confusing job for a confusing company. There’s a handful of us in the Atlanta office, and by handful I mean ten. This was an Atlanta co-worker. We wanted to show our collective support. Life narrowed the choices to me and one other. The two of us who could go did go. We offered our condolences, joined the service, and exited. It took thirty minutes.
There wasn’t a lot of time for quiet reflection during the service, delivered by the very Southern and very Baptist preacher, the young preacher, the energetic, charismatic, talked with his entire being preacher. But there was a lot of time for quiet reflection as I drove the 40 miles home, no music, no smoking.
I’m all kinds of fucked up when it comes to understanding my own beliefs. I’ve felt the best kinship with the “everybody gets to heaven” theory of a weird old man: Henry Stuart, the main character of Sonny Brewer’s The Poet of Tolstoy Park. (The book is not about religion. It’s a good book. I wrote about it here.) For Henry, it’s not who you believe in, but how you believe. You’d have to read it for yourself, but what I took away from it is that religion is holding true to the core beliefs in your heart and not wavering in the face of adversity, yet showing and sharing respect for the beliefs that directly counter your own. Sounds simple enough, but it’s kind of hard.
Believe what you believe and don’t pretend otherwise just to fit in. You can insert any religion, any faith, any set of good, solid, felt to the core feelings into doing right when right isn’t always easy to do.
It isn’t all together different from the message of the funeral service tonight. It focused on Proverbs 21:1:
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. NIV
My co-worker’s father will be remembered as a good man. My co-worker is a good man. The other one, the one who also left work and drove over an hour through Atlanta rush hour traffic to go to a funeral for a man we never met, is a good man. I suppose in this whole list I should recognize that I am a good women. Boy that was hard to type, and not delete.
The message of the service, delivered by a Southern Baptist preacher as it was, left an impression on me. A good name. What is a good name? The legacy of this man’s good name is that of a faithful husband and loving father, a devout Christian, an ethical employee, and a community serviceman. We all have the makings of a good name. Sounds simple enough, but it’s kind of hard.
Favor, esteem, reputation…the delicate balance of a life well-lived in, a life in the service of others, reliably and consistently. The legacy of this man’s good name is that of a man revered by peers and juniors alike for patience, perseverance, and experience, all of which he shared freely. We all have the makings of a good reputation. Sounds simple enough, but it’s kind of hard.
A good name and a good reputation. You can insert any religion, any faith, any set of good, solid, felt to the core feelings into living a good name and a good reputation.
I feel like I’m blabbering now.
I went to a funeral for a man I didn’t know, for a co-worker I hardly know (because I tend to exit swiftly if office chatter turns personal and I had to fight feeling like a sham when I learned for the first time tonight that my co-worker has a brother. Who knew?). It made sense that I would go and stand with one other for the office. My big plans for the weekend include cleaning is the scattered remnants of a week with my kids and putting away the Christmas tree. None of which I was going to do tonight. Plus, I’m the go-to miscellaneous employee.
Have you ever attended a funeral for someone you didn’t know? How many questions did you have after listening without the cloud of grief?
This was not what I was writing when I left work. Obviously. I was working, duh. But really, I hadn’t attend the funeral yet. So now that I’ve squashed the brain bug of post-funeral drive thinking I’ll get back to what I had in mind. Eventually. Maybe.
*featured image: Calla Lily, (CC BY-SA 3.0)