Yesterday I went to one of the saddest funerals I’ve ever attended. It wasn’t sad because of the throngs of people weeping. Rather one of the reasons it was sad was how few people attended. Of those present, it seemed most were there out of respect for the dead man’s grandmother.
I attended elementary, junior high and high school with the decedent. However, I didn’t recognize any of my contemporaries there. There was a preponderance of little old ladies. His mother had died when we were in elementary school. He had a falling out with his father some years ago and they hadn’t even spoken for years. His father only decided he would attend his only child’s funeral because he was shamed into it by his former mother-in-law, the dead man’s grandmother. He showed no visible grief or sadness and chose not to attend the burial.
It is sometimes said that the number of people that show up at one’s funeral is largely dictated by the weather on the day. It was quite a nice, warm, sunny day. I’d hate to think of what it would have been like had there been a chill in the air or the threat of precipitation.
There were two preachers doing the funeral. One of them had only seen him a couple of times before. The other had only ever seen him a couple of times outside of a hospital or nursing home. Only one of them could even manage one anecdote about his life.
In our childhood days, the decedent and I were sometimes confused for one another by children who didn’t know us well, even though we didn’t really ever associate with each other. We were both named David. We both had red hair. We were about the same height. We were in the same grade. We were born in the same hospital eight days apart.
How differently our lives turned out. From the time I can remember, and until her death, his mother was confined to the hospital with a neuromuscular degenerative disease. From childhood, he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He didn’t get along with his step-mother. After we grew up, he was briefly married and divorced. He had no children. When he wasn’t in the hospital or nursing home, he lived with his grandmother. The only thing his obituary could say about his life was that for a few years he was member of the local volunteer fire department. And as one of the preachers at the funeral said, regretting that it was the best he could say, at least he’s not suffering anymore.
There embalmed in the casket, I saw someone who still looked a lot like me, bald head, goatee and all.
There are many times when we look at other people and situations and say, often glibly, “There, but for the grace of God…” Today made me truly wonder at the grace of God. At the same time, it troubled me with unanswered questions.
I don’t know the condition of David’s soul. I only ask for God’s mercy on his and mine. May I find a way to use all the potential God has given me in the number of days I have left. And though there appears to have been so little to eulogize about David, may his memory be eternal and may he rest in peace.