When you attend a funeral that starts with Tim Mcgraw "Real Good Man" and Ends with Willie Nelson "Whiskey River" that should tell the story of a very sad journey that left the speakers… speechless.
I attended a late night funeral of my first cousin – the saddest funeral I have ever been too in my life. Not the mourning kind of sad – a deeper sad. The kind where someone is lost and the room is filled with people, not a lot of people around 50. The music began to play and it was a song by Tim Mcgraw, who I enjoy listening to sing – but the words spoken in this song was a bar room song – that told of a man's life who had a good heart but lived fast – free – as he choose to do.
This was the side of family that you saw a few times a year – if that. Everyone knew who each other was and spoke kindly to the other. The air was filled with a heaviness that I did not clearly recognize at first. As I was standing in line to speak to the sister of the deceased – I saw the white covering. Not a pretty covering, almost like a pillow case instead. Then the edge of the box, It was not a oak box, or cherry, nor was it mahogany. It was a card board type box just like the ones that the UPS man sits on my porch every week a small one. Plain … white …cardboard. My heart twinged, I stood and stared without saying a word – my youngest son pecked on my side, I leaned down to hear his whisper "Mom what is that? Where is the man?" I explained that he was cremated and under the white clothe was his ashes. I did not say in that white card board box. I said my hello's and gave a few hugs as we muddled through a dry conversation. Introduced our children even though the likely hood of them meeting again were rare.
I had never been to a funeral at night before – nor had I been to one quiet like this one.
As a nurse I have seen a lot of death – been to lots of funerals. Death itself is not new to me, nor am I afraid of it. I know that my savior is waiting on the other side of that door – waiting for me and it will be a new life worth going too. However, for some they are not so sure what is waiting for them or what door they will stand in front of.
The first speaker stood and approached the stand – nervous – emotional – it was the brother of the deceased. He stammered over his words and thanked people for coming out to the memorial. His words were hard to find as he reached and pulled for words that were not there. He made the statement, "For the last two days I have sat and thought about my brother and what I wanted to share with you or what I could share with you in mixed company like this. There were some good times, but a lot more bad. I tried to think of the good and they were not there. He shared a story back when he was in the 8th grade when his brother stole is football uniform – how they played tricks on each other working out on the farm. Then he paused …."I don't have anything good to say about my brother – but I will miss him" He stepped down as the sister stood to speak.
The room was quiet – no one shuffled – no one sniffled. Not one wet eye in the room, not even his own mother. I take that back one ex wife held a Kleenex – but I am not sure she was using it.
When the sister stood she mentioned how hard it was to share words about a person who was adamant to live his life as he choice to do – placing no judgment she did not offer any words about the man. She read from a paper instead from a favorite author.
There was not one prayer spoken. There was not a minster in the house. There was no love felt. He was just gone, placed in a white card board box, covered with a white clothe. No words could explain who he was, what he did, and where he was headed. His life was simply over.
I sat in shock as the event took place – watching across the room at people's reactions. Seeing the family sitting in the front I heard one sniffle and looked in that direction. She quickly pulled herself together and announced the final song. I shook my head when Willie Nelson's voice came across the speakers and the older brother stood with his hands in his pockets tapping his foot to "Whiskey River". Clearly the man who was in that small cardboard box as a full fledge alcoholic with a big attitude that no one cared for. The funeral was over but yet no one moved. It was not normal from the beginning to the end – how were they suppose to know what was to come next.
It left me so sad…not for the death …for the life that had no one that would really miss him – and a family that was so cold they were angry to have to spend time dealing with his funeral. Or so it appeared.
It made me stop and think about how many of my patients over the years had families who felt the same way – all the bridges they had burned in their life until people stopped calling, stopped visiting and what happened to them happened by the choices they made.
What will people say at your funeral? Will they stutter over their words – or will there be so many words they cannot say them all.
It was an odd comparison, actually no comparison at all to a women in her late 40's died after a long journey with cancer the very next day. She fought for her life and loved her family. People changed their facebook profile in honor of her – they wore shirts with her name on it – hung pink ribbons and did an honor walk. The church held so many people honoring her life – praying for the family – lifting her amazing life up one last time. The speakers had things to say – and her family will miss her deeply. These are the type of funerals I am used to attending. That was normal for me.
A pauper's funeral was given for a man that lived his life his way – which was his choice, leaving behind a family that became angry. He had lived his life at the bottom of a bottle – floating from one day to the next, sipping the demon that took his life – slowly. Living in filth – laying, in his own body fluids. Cursing, anyone that tried to change who he was. Wonder what this life style was covering up – masking what kind of pain that he could not bare. Instead he drank it silent. Silent to the point that his heart even grew quiet – his breath hid the pain so well it grew quite so no one could hear the pain. His hand wrapped tight around the only friend he had left …he floated down the river….whiskey river.
I must say – it opened my eyes. How have I affected other people's life? Would they shutter over words that would not come or would they flow.
The only thing that stayed on my mind, did he even know Jesus. Did he die alone – so alone that his eternity was dark and waiting for more darkness?
Life is a journey and we get to make choices. It is not the beginning or the end – it is the journey in the middle that people remember. What are will they say about you?
"Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 – A name is better than good oil, and the day of death than the day of one’s being born. Better is it to go to the house of mourning than to go to the banquet house, because that is the end of all mankind; and the one alive should take [it] to his heart. Better is vexation than laughter, for by the crossness of the face the heart becomes better. The heart of the wise ones is in the house of mourning, but the heart of the stupid ones is in the house of rejoicing".
Angela Brooks is a mental health nurse devoting over 25 years to the nursing field. Executive Director with young living , She is the author The Nurses Voice, and is a contributor to the nursing magazines "Scrubs Magazine" and "NurseTogether.com".
She is the founder of angelabrook.com, a company dedicated to helping empower nurses who works in the mental health field. Not just for nurses – but those that nurse others in life. She is the nurses voice, the voice for those unheard.
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