Attending funerals is a part of my job. Sometimes I know the person whose life is being honored. Sometimes I do not. If the service is done well, I leave wishing I had known them better. On rare occasions, I may shed a tear, but mostly I’m a tough cookie and leave the tissues for the guests.
Memorial services have a tendency of presenting the positives, don’t they? Nobody ever says,”He was just a mean old cuss and no one liked him.” And honestly, if that were the case, no one would probably be there to hear it. I mean, who even goes to funerals for mean old cusses anyway?
A recently held service was attended by over 400 people. The deceased was the patriarch of his family and life long resident (84 years) of this area. He excelled in business and was well known for his contributions in our community. As impressive as that was, you know, building a dynasty from the ground up (literally), none of that moved me. What struck me (and started the waterworks) is what his grandchildren shared….
- He was my biggest fan and always told me how proud he was of me.
- He always came to check on us when we were working, even if someone else had to drive him out to the fields.
- He never missed a concert or a recital or any kind of performance I was in, whether it was at school or at church. He was always there.
- He said he wasn’t hungry until he saw what I was cooking, then he couldn’t wait to have some because it looked so good.
- He was always there, cheering me on.
These were not cliches or platitudes. These were young adults and teens sharing through their tears and their pain. These lives were significantly impacted by their grandfather. Yes, he showed them his work ethic, business skills, and steadfast dedication. He left a sizeable enterprise for them to manage. But they didn’t talk about that.
They shared how he had invested in THEM. How this incredibly busy entrepreneur had his priorities in order. His grandchildren were a priority in his schedule – they did not simply occupy the picture frames on his desk. He became interested in their lives. He poured out in tangible ways that showed his family that they mattered to him. He may have written large checks for their birthdays, maybe not. It was never mentioned. And no one gives testimonies like the ones I heard over lost birthday money.
Glad there were plenty of tissues. That’s a job well done, Grandpa. You did it right. May we all do as well when our day arrives.
The generations that are coming ahead of us NEED us to pour into them. If you have grandchildren, give them as much of your SELF as you can (not just the gifts, please). Find out what they like. Encourage them in their endeavors. This may mean babysitting on occasion (setting good boundaries ahead of time keeps this healthy). Your handicap won’t suffer all that much if you miss a golf game, and we all know there’s nothing decent on TV these days.
If your grandkids are far away, keeping in touch is a little more challenging but not impossible. FaceTime, Skype and Google Hangout are all great ways to connect with video chat. And don’t forget how much kids, especially younger ones, love getting mail and packages.
If you don’t have grandchildren, adopt one (not for real, it’s an expression). There are plenty of single moms and dads around without extended families. The voices of generations past are becoming less audible, so it’s up to you to find a way to share what you’ve got. Your local church or school will most likely have volunteer opportunities galore. You can also check with Big Brothers / Big Sisters or the Boys & Girls Clubs or Girls, Inc. or the YMCA. There are plenty of ways to connect to youngsters if you don’t have any of your own underfoot.
Giving back to the next generation is always a wise investment. Especially if you want nice things said about you at your funeral (unless you’re a mean old cuss, and then it won’t really matter). Your opportunity to shape someone’s future is within reach – don’t miss it!
Thanks for reading, until next time!