You learn more at a funeral than at a feast – After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover something from it. [Ecclesiastes 7:2 (MSG)]

black swallowtail - butterflyAt my age, I’ve attended a fair share of funerals and they’ve run the gamut from full-blown productions complete with video presentations and choirs to a few mourners on a windy ski slope with a bag of ashes. Some ministers knew the deceased well and others couldn’t even pronounce the name correctly. There have been inspiring prayers and eulogies and some with no prayer at all. They’ve taken place in jam-packed churches and nearly empty mortuary chapels. Solomon was correct; there is a lot we can learn at funerals.

I’ve learned how much we miss when we don’t take the time to truly know someone. I discovered more about one woman from her obituary and eulogy than I did from 30 years of socializing with her. Her funeral showed me how little we really know about people we call “friends” and how superficial our friendships can be.

I’ve learned how empty some lives have been. When asked to do the eulogy for a distant family member, I was given a list of the five things of which he was most proud, the high point being a 4-H trophy awarded some seventy years earlier. He made no mention of family, friends, faith, or love. As I looked out over the mourners, there were no friends and only a few family members who attended out of a sense of obligation.

As we released butterflies following the joyous and love-filled celebration of life of another family member, I learned about courage and how much faith, love, family and friends can guide someone in life and through the dark valley of death.

I’ve learned how much a parent’s love and guidance can influence his children after hearing a son speak eloquently at his father’s funeral. I was reminded of how fragile life can be and, upon returning home, called every family member just to tell them I loved them.

I’ve learned that communities can come together with offerings of food, comfort and support and that families can be torn apart by resentment, jealousy, and greed. A funeral not only reminds us all of the inevitability of death, it can teach us how to live. If nothing else, we return home appreciating each day just a little more.

Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day! [Acts 8:2 (MSG)]

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