During the past few weeks my wife Kay and I have attended five funerals of friends and relatives. It caused us to spend some time reflecting on the inevitable day we all must face.
Christian memorial services follow similar formats, but there are some changes with the new technology afforded us. Even though it takes a lot of effort on the part of families, the display boards are something I find helpful, as you learn more about the deceased through photographs, awards, uniforms, mementos and personal documents. Sometimes the addition of a scrapbook helps to display such items more easily. A fairly recent innovation is a slide show or video at the visitation or before the service, which is another way of reminding friends and relatives of the person’s path through life.
The saddest occasions for me occur when a person has been away from his or her hometown for many years, may not have any close living relatives, and the clergy conducting the service never had an opportunity to meet the person and can only read the obituary from the pulpit as a remembrance. How can one’s life be summarized in 200 words?
The popularity of email and features such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media has added another dimension to memorializing loved ones. I read an article this past week in the Wall Street Journal that discussed ways to “celebrate a life online,” including sites such as Legacy.com, a partner of the Daily Chronicle, where families can have obituaries published online that can be viewed for months by friends near and far. Other sites go further in allowing people to create personal web pages to build online memorials.
Getting back to the impact all these funerals have had on us, Kay and I have spent considerable time recently poring over family albums, carefully selecting favorite photos and documents, so it won’t fall on our children to make decisions on what to include in a display when the time comes.
Something I hope to add is a personal comment or names and dates attached to each photo. How many times have you gone through a photo album from deceased family members and wondered who it was in the picture, as well as where and when each picture was taken?
I’d like to conclude with an oft-quoted poem sent to me by my friend Mil Misic of DeKalb, that really hits home. Titled “Around the Corner” it was penned many years ago by the late Henson Towne (1877-1949).
Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by, and the weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year has gone.
And I never see my old friend’s face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell,
And he rang mine, but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
“Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim,
Just to show I am thinking of him.”
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner, yet miles away,
“Here’s a telegram sir,” “Jim died today.”
And that’s what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.