This past week I’ve been in Arizona, attending a memorial for my sister’s husband, Tony.
Tony and Jenny very intentionally planned this as a Celebration of Life, rather than a funeral.
They chose to have a family barbecue in their favourite nature preserve. The invitation specified casual, comfortable clothing. One of the key supplies for this celebration was a collection of giant bubble wands for the smaller kids to entertain each other with.
There was nothing solemn about this celebration, though there was much sadness. We laughed as much as we cried.
And this is just how I think it should be.
Any time I’ve been to a funeral, or a memorial, filled in equal measure with tears and laughter, those who remain have healed better than when all the focus was on the loss.
When we’ve sat around into the wee hours telling stories about the one who has gone before us, I’ve found that they live in us more fully.
When I’ve gotten to know someone far, far better during their memorial service, I’ve found that they never truly left their loved ones behind.
I’m not certain, but I also suspect that those who are prepared to celebrate life during these worst of hours, when loss is tearing their lives apart, are generally people who will have celebrated life all along. People who will continue to appreciate life every day into the future.
And I think those people are profoundly blessed.
So, my heart breaks for my sister, who has endured so much, and fought so hard through this last terrible year. My heart breaks for their daughter who is just entering adulthood, and has to figure out how to navigate a future without her Daddy by her side. And for all the others who are grieving this painful loss.
But I suspect that Tony will live strongly in their lives. I suspect that they will find comfort in their memories, rather than pain. Where many families would be shattered by a loss this huge, I think this family will grow closer and stronger through it.
And I am reminded to celebrate how precious life is.