Thursday, May 28, 2009

Things You Learn at a Funeral

I have had a series of metaphoric ball busting things happen to me over the past couple of days. You know what I am talking about - those little annoyances in our lives that happen to chip away at our self-esteem.

It may be a co-worker who decides to go over your head to ask someone with more 'authority' a question that you could have answered. Or maybe you share a great victory with a family member only to have them tell you that they accomplished that a long time ago. Perhaps you are back in touch with some old college acquaintances and you realize that you are just as much an outsider now as you were then. These are just hypothetical scenarios of the kinds of things that happen to us all the time - things that cause us to take stock in our lives and find us wanting.

Such a week is what I have had. All of a sudden I was 16 years old again and full of all the insecurities that plagued me at that time in my life. Not really a place you want to return to at age 44. I only stayed there for a moment though, so that points to great progress. At 16 I could wallow for days in self pity. Now, I am at a point where these things don't bother me nearly as much. Progress, indeed.

I started to think of the regard with which people now treat me. I remembered the thank you notes that have graced my in box for something I said that touched the heart of another. I thought about the marvelous card I received for my service on the PTA and the fabulous gifts that were included. I recalled the kind words that were given to me regarding my children about what a joy they were to be around. I thought of the encouragement I have received about my writing. When faced with all of those blessings, how could I even spend one minute in the dumps? It was unthinkable.

Then today I went to a funeral - the funeral of a man whose life was cut short. He was only 42, two years younger than I am myself. What a horrible sudden tragedy it was. I didn't know the man well, but his daughters attend the same schools as my children do and I have come to know the family over the years. I was dumbstruck by the outpouring of love for the family. The church was overflowing with people who esteemed this man and his family.

It struck me then that the things that can so devastate our lives for a moment, or a season are really so trivial. I don't know if this man was a big shot in school. I have no idea if he won awards for any merits in his life. Sitting there at his service though, I realized that all of that didn't matter. What mattered was the lives that he touched while he was here - the people who where his friends, his family and those who cared for him. This is how we measure success.

I realized I needed to change my perspective. I try to always concentrate on the positives in life, but at times I need a gentle reminder that my mind has drifted into the negative and needs to be steered back on course.

I mourn for the loss in this family and I am grateful to them for sharing their grief with me as a remembrance to dwell on those things that bring us joy. It is in that place that we find true blessing in a life well lived.