Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Funeral is an Invitation to Death, Celebrate Life Instead

I received an invitation. It was not a funeral announcement. Those are invitations as well. I refuse those kinds of invites in certain circumstances.

Next week, I am headed out to the 80th birthday celebration of someone in my family. I will take a day off from work to attend. Not only that, I will have to fly to one city and then rent a car and drive an hour to get to the event in another city and state. I can't wait to celebrate the life of this individual! I am so excited to be able to celebrate with her and her immediate famly. I believe in celebrating people in life.

In contrast, growing up, my family around me, immediate and extended, always made it a point to attend someone's funeral. Often times, I was required to go with them to see someone in death whom I had no knowledge of in life.

When someone died, people in my family would take time off from work, buy an airplane ticket and make sure they attended that funeral. What I didn't understand was why these same people claimed that they didn't have time to go see these people before and didn't have the money to go see these people - when they were alive.

When someone died, the cash and the time were found. As an adult, I shifted my priorities and changed my way of doing things, especially as it relates to funerals.

I decided that I didn't want my first and last and only memory of someone to be after they died, lying in a coffin, having to rely upon second hand and third hand stories to learn about the recently deceased family member. It always made me feel cheated and that I had missed out. The truth of the matter was, I had missed out. I had missed out on the opportunity of getting to know another, beautiful, powerful human being who happened to be a family member.

Long ago, I vowed that I would create my OWN memories of people. If I didn't know you in life, I certainly didn't want to meet you in death. I stopped attending funerals of family that I did not know or had not had the opportunity to get to know.

At first, I got in trouble. People in my family were angered and offended by my actions. People thought me selfish, inconsiderate and immature and thoughtless.

What I do in my life, is celebrate people in their lives. When ever I can, I take a trip to a town and see who I can. I sit down, have a meal or just talk for a few minutes. I use my money to buy airplane tickets to birthday celebrations, for attending weddings, to meet new additions of the family, to comfort those who are ill or to renew a relationship with someone that I haven't seen in awhile.

I 'find' the time and the money because I make it a priority.

When I go on trips, unless it is to a foreign local, I don't get any rest. I spend my entire time going to see people and visiting homes and houses.

But this is my choice. I am not lamenting my situation. I relish in it. I don't want to know you after you are dead and gone. It leaves me feeling empty. Perhaps I am selfish.

I want to know and love people when they are alive and breathing. I save time and money in my life for the purpose of being able to use it to celebrate someone else's life. I can't go see everyone, and folks need to make the time and effort to come and see me if I can't get to them - but I don't control that. I only control me!

Do what you can to celebrate someone in life, while they are still here to embrace your beautiful face with their loving eyes. Pick up the phone and give them a call, who ever the person may be.

I still attend funerals, but I do it on my own terms, not because of some external obligation or because I should or have to do it. I attend a funeral when I believe that it is meaningful to me and for me.

Light is in the living man, or woman. I try to spend as much time as possible in the light. One way to be sure to do that is in the presence of the living. The light of the living is only magnified when it is part of a celebratory event. That's where I want to be.

Celebrate those you love in life. Don't wait to make it a priority to see someone only after their last breath has passed from their mouths, over their lips, to be gone forever and for always. It may be a hardship and take some effort, but you can do it if you really want to do it.

Cyndi Lauper says, "I want to be the one to walk in the Sun." There is no greater light and warmth than that of someone you love and care about who is alive and breathing. Go see that person and walk in the sun, literally and figuratively, while you still can.

Life is beautiful, celebrate it. When you do, you celebrate yourself and that just adds to you own personal beauty.