I’ve been thinking about funerals. Funerals and death.
My great aunt died earlier this week. We weren’t very close; I loved her because she always sent me a ten-dollar bill on my birthday, and she called me beautiful when I didn’t think I was. I knew her for only a fraction of her life, only as my elderly aunt with big glasses.
The younger generation is cheated in that way.
We only see people in the later stages of their lives, but their early years are most likely some of the most important. I knew my aunt when she had white hair and was hard of hearing, but I never knew her when she tap-danced down stairs or wore coconut bras. It’s hard to imagine the sweet old woman I knew as a younger being, full of life. But she was! It is impossible to deny the fact that people change as they age, but you cannot imagine before the change.
I think about my parents a lot. They had me so late in life, it is a known fact that they had a lot of life before me. Perhaps even an entirely different life. I often wonder how two people like my parents could make a person like me. My mom was popular, my dad was athletic. I run a blog and go to ComicCon. But nevertheless they have influenced me.
My great aunt was just my great aunt to me, but she was also a mother, and a grandmother. And hearing her son speak at the funeral made me very emotional, because I know that I’ll have to do that someday. If life progresses the way it was meant to, we all will have to bury our parents.
Funerals are a great way to get to know someone’s selves. Because the people that come to funerals knew the deceased at all different stages of their life. I knew Aunt Peggy because she never forgot my birthday, but I didn’t know her the way my mom did, or her son did, or her grandchildren did, or her sisters did. I got a glimpse of all of her selves at her funeral.
It’s frustrating that I only got to know her once she was already gone.
People will never know my parents like I know them. I will never know my parents like their college friends know them, or how their siblings know them. I try to absorb as many stories about them as I can, because I want to paint myself the most accurate picture, but I will never fully understand. How much will I learn at their funerals? How much will I teach? How will they be remembered?
How will I be remembered?
What kind of person will I be when I’m older? What tree of people will have stories to share at my funeral? I’ll never get to know. One of the most easily understood aspects of life is that you cannot attend your own funeral.
I think John Green said it best. “Funerals, I have decided, are for the living.” And it’s true. It is supposed to be a ‘sending-off’ ceremony, but the person is already gone. The only thing they leave behind are memories in someone else’s mind. And so, for a moment, they are still alive as those they loved share their memories.
Who will keep me alive? There are so many unanswerable questions. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to answer them. But I hope you remember me.