Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember to be thankful

I went to a funeral today, the day before Thanksgiving. I sat in the church, listening to the music and thinking how odd it felt to have a funeral on the day before Thanksgiving. It's been an emotional year for me because this was the third funeral I've been to this year, but honestly? I'm pretty thankful for all three of these people.

My grandmother died in January at the age of 99½ … I know the reason she didn't make it to 100: she always hated it when Willard Scott would yell people's ages on TV! She was a wonderful, amazing, hilarious, strong, soft, intelligent and beautiful woman, and what's funny now is how much I've learned about her since her death – mostly about her youth, when she was just as forthright and determined as she was later in life. But also how much we are alike.

That funeral was very hard, especially since I had to be part of the eulogy and everything I wanted to say had been said in a poem I had written for her on her 90th birthday, and which was posted at the viewing! But, I spoke from the heart and was lucky that I had heard a really good quote that week: "Don't cry because [she's] gone, smile because [she] existed!" I am very happy to be related to her and I'm soooooo glad that I was given the time to get to know her. I hope I can be more like her in the rest of my life.

My friend, PJ, died this summer. I've only known him a few years and wouldn't say we were that close, but I counted him as a friend. He was a little older than me and when I first met him at Nanny's, he had quit drinking and smoking for health reasons. I loved the fact that he still went to Nanny's for lunch every day and every day he had a new joke for Sharon (and the rest of us). He was the nicest person in the world, and would do anything to help a person out. I hadn't planned to go to his funeral because I was supposed to be starting my training to do a 10k… but I went to the viewing on Friday night and the ensuing Irish wake, and so I woke up too late for the training. I got dressed up and ran out to catch the bus to his funeral. Since I had just missed the bus, I was lucky that my friends Tommy and Dan (who I had not seen in eons) saw me on Connecticut and stopped to pick me up. I got to the church and joined more of my friends in the pews for the service, which was sad and funny, and just perfect. My favorite story was by PJ's brother who said that shortly before he died, PJ had pulled him aside to tell him something he wanted to pass on to the "younger generation": "You know kids, I quit drinking, quit smoking and started eating healthy… and look what THAT got me!" That was PJ!

Today's funeral was for my friend Cathy's mother. I met her mom once, nearly 20 years ago, but Cathy is one of my best friends, one of the "Hoodlums" – a bunch of friends who have been hanging out together since the late 80s. I didn't know Cathy's mom at all, but her daughter is an awesome individual. Her mother used to always ask her about her "Hoodlum" friends with a little giggle because the name is so silly and inappropriate when applied to us (Cathy's dad was in law enforcement so he had a completely different definition of "hoodlum" and doesn't much like our adopted sobriquet). And more, Cathy told me of a recent incident that just melted my heart, because her mother had started understanding her daughter more and remembering the love that was always there.

I am sad for the loss of all three of these people even if I didn't really know all of them all that well. All three had their faults as well as their sterling qualities, but all three made a positive impact on my life just by living theirs. And I've learned a lot.

Remember to be thankful, remember to love, and most of all remember to live.

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