In life, there are people who attend funerals and there are those who avoid them.

I attend funerals.

Here are the reasons why:

The unspoken promise:

To me, sitting in a wooden pew or standing at the graveside of the funeral service of a friend fullfils an unspoken promise created the moment I formed a human bond with that person.

It’s a promise that the passing of this person’s life will not go unmourned. It’s an unacknowledged oath that there will be at least one person at the funeral–at least one person to put flowers on your grave.

I use the term “friend” in this case to represent many kinds of relationships: friendship, love, colleague relationships and family bonds.

Loyalty is everything to me. Once I am your friend, it takes a hell of a lot for me to cut you from my life… a hell of a lot. Neither distance or time matter to me and, for that matter, neither does the grave.

For the rest of the story:

I also come to a friend’s funeral so that I can get the bigger picture of you (friend who has left me). To fill in the pieces of your life story. I guess it’s a little bit of the journalist in me that wants to document you in my mind. By talking to others at the funeral, I get to hear new anctedoctes that somehow sound oh so familiar and remind me of all the quirks that I loved about you.

To hold their hand:

On occasion, and growing more frequently as the years accumulate, a friend who I love to the depth of me departs this earth.

For those soul mates in particular I go to be there for those left behind.

I come armed with a credit card to take the young widow out to drink and ensure she makes it home safe.

I come armed with blank thank-you cards and a pen to fill out for the mother/father/spouse to sign and drop in the mailbox when they have time.

I come with my purse crammed with unused tissues and an arm to put around your shoulder or a hand to squeeze when the casket is lowered, if you reach for me.

I come armed with memories and pictures to share if you want.

I come to sit and be silent by your side, oh person who loved my friend too.

I come to be your shoulder to hide your face in if you cannot look.

I come to carry your purse. To gather the flowers and cards. To think ahead when you cannot and make sure things get taken care of and people are where they need to be.

I come to help keep fights from breaking out that my friend, now gone, had held in check, because he/she would want it that way for at least a day.

And most of all, I come to pray for peace and healing for all those around me.

Friend. I hope I never have to see your open grave for I know I will eventually have one too. But, if you skip out before I do, be assured now while you are alive, that I will be there and that you will remain as a mark in my heart.