This afternoon, August 8, 2015, I felt that I would be best served by going to one of my most happy places; to the forest of my childhood; to the giving trees who I love and love me in return. I recorded two videos (see our YouTube channel for those), and wrote this post. It is indexed under the category of ‘spiritual’; take from it what you will…
My mom has been in the flower shop business since I was in kindergarten, and to this very day.
From earliest youth until such time I departed home (13 days after I graduated high school), I spent 6 of 7 days a week behind the counter, in the workroom either observing or helping with the family business. That amounts to about 4,368 days of my life.
During my time in the shop I have witnessed the coming and going of more than 1000 funerals, for which I’ve made even more treks to deliver floral arrangements to the local funeral homes and cemeteries. I also worked for the funeral home part time, maintaining cemetery grounds and clearing grave sites of the recently departed. Throughout, I have seen many a family in mourning, I’ve heard many a eulogy, as does everyone in this business.
A curious boy, I always wondered why some funerals seemed to emanate more laughter and kinship than heavy sadness and a sense of separation. I wondered why some people displayed such tremendous sorrow and burden, whereas others were prone to levity in remembrance.
One day, I asked the undertaker: ‘why is this so? … Why is that person so sad, but the other more at peace?’
Replied the undertaker two things that I have always remembered and thereafter contemplated for decades since: “Everyone mourns in their own way the sense of loss. Some focus on celebrating the life and personality of the person that once was, where others become focused mostly on the loss. Also, regret. Those who mourn so heavily seem also to carry the most regret.”
‘What do you mean by regret?’, I further inquired.
“Regret that they didn’t have closure before it was too late. Regret that there were feelings left unexpressed; words left unsaid…regret, and often guilt, that some aspect of their relationship with the departed could have been or should have been different, had they only made their peace before the person departed. While they are sad for the vacancy and void now in their life, they are mostly regretful for something left undone; something left unsaid, which may now never be completed. This lack of completion is what they actually mourn for most.”
He concluded by admonishing: “So remember, then, to tell your loved ones now that you love them and make your peace daily…that you may never have regret for leaving something incomplete should the time come unannounced, as it so often does.”
I think about my own family and friends. If any of them transitioned tomorrow, what would be left unsaid or not completed in my relationship with them? For whom and what would I mourn with the sense of ‘if only I had…’
I am presently writing a book about this lesson from the undertaker. It’s titled: Eulogy – putting the fun back in ‘fun’eral. The premise is simple. While it is an expected and normal part of the grieving process to experience a sense of loss for the person, it is most tragic and heartbreaking to never achieve closure for the feelings and words left unexpressed.
…It is most difficult when we experience a void of separation for which the gap could have otherwise been closed before it was too late. The conclusion of the book entails an exercise: To write eulogies for those whom we love, expressing what we love about them– and to give the eulogy to that person NOW– while they are alive. The objective is to make one’s peace and closure now, so that one can celebrate the life of their dearly departed when the time comes, versus being mired in a sense of regret for what could have been, but never again can be.
Perhaps today is a good day to reach out to those for whom you care and express your love and appreciation. Or, depending on the circumstances, to express whatever it is about your relationship that you wish were better than it is. …Even to express or ask for forgiveness for some perceived trespass or infraction.
Perhaps every day is a good day to express our feelings to those with whom we are in relationship, even if those feelings may not be something they want to hear, or are difficult for one to convey.
What is worse? To express love or contention now, or to have regret and lack of closure for ‘if only I had, while I still could…’ ?
p.s.- while at the forest today, I took some photos, in case you are interested in meeting some of my friends. Here are three of them, in no particular order…