The only good thing that I can think of about dying before your time is that you get a good turn out at your funeral – and even that isn’t a massive advantage for the recipient unless of course you believe that they are already hovering above enjoying the scene….
Take my Grandmother for example – she is going to be 100 in October and I really hope she makes it. Amazing eh? However, she will have absolutely no friends at her funeral – all dead. She has even managed to outlive one of her children. I’m already dreading an empty room. Seems so awful somehow to not have a full house of friends and family to give thanks for your life….
That said, I’d far rather be her than our lovely family friend who died recently. Her London memorial (she had a service in HK and a buddhist ceremony on the river in Thailand) was last Friday. She was the most beautiful woman you could ever meet – “both inside and out” as my mother always used to say. In fact she also used to say “if she wasn’t so lovely I would hate her because she’s far too beautiful to be my friend”. She died tragically, aged 69 from a fatal illness. So unfair. The service was wonderful. Just as it should be for her, beautiful, moving, peaceful and with a touch of humour thrown in for good measure – just what she would have wanted. Her beautiful granddaughter who shocked me when she stood up because she looked so like her sang “Ave Verum” with a choir and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. She reduced the entire audience to tears (if they weren’t already).
She’s left behind her gorgeous husband, her three children and many grandchildren as well as lots of old family friends like us who all grew up together in Hong Kong and had such wonderful memories to share. She was my favourite of all my mother’s friends – she was the one who talked to me like I was an adult when I wasn’t quite there yet, who made the effort to keep in touch when I left home, met me for coffee in London, kept an eye on us all after our father died, did as much as she could for my mother in her grief. She was the woman with the biggest heart. With enough time for everyone. She was always on the go and never sat still for a minute – flitting across the globe at a moment’s notice. She was happy to share her last penny with anyone and everyone and so the choice for one of the readings was entirely fitting and a good reminder for us all about what it means to give.
Then said a rich man, “Speak to us of Giving.”
And he answered:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
From “THE PROPHET” by Kahlil Gibran 1883-1931 a Lebanese poet and philosopher
…and then there was another reading that also moved me to tears – all about Friends and of course it’s at times like this, whilst you sit and grieve for her and those she has left behind, you also take the time to sit and reflect about how lucky you have been that you’ve had good friends that have supported you through very difficult times – huge swathes of time that raced by during which my friends and family were there supporting and cajoling along the way with some sort of invisible safety net and now it’s my turn to help other friends who are in difficult situations for various reasons – the ebb and flow of life – it’s so important to remember how much we all need each other:-
FAREWELL MY FRIENDS
It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
save the pain I’ll leave behind.
those dear hearts who love and care..
and the strings pulling at the heart and soul.
The strong arms that held me up
when my own strength let me down.
At every turning of my life
I came across good friends,
friends who stood by me,
even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell my friends
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not
all I need is your smile.
If you feel sad do think of me
for that’s what I’ll like.
When you live in the hearts of those you love,
remember then you never die.
Rabindrath Tagore 1861-1941