Going to a funeral is difficult. That deafening silence in the chapel brings back painful memories and stirs up emotions that I work so hard to control. No matter how much time has passed, that aching and longing for my parents and sisters is never buried too deeply, always bubbling in my heart, ever so slightly, like a pot of porridge on the stove.
Admittedly and honestly, I’m not big on current events, politics, math or science, but I’m fascinated by people and animals. I have some pretty incredible people (and animals) in my life, and when I attend a funeral (an unfortunate reality) I listen carefully to the eulogies and absorb the words and stories that are used to describe the person who died. Often I learn things I didn’t know, sometimes I wonder about what was left out, and occasionally I feel inspired and aspired to do more for others, to be a better person . . . to do whatever I have to do in order to ensure that when I die, I can be sent off with a positive, heartfelt and inspiring eulogy.
Yesterday I attended a funeral for a 50 year old man who I was proud and privileged to call my friend. Harold was diagnosed just over a year ago with a malignant brain tumor.
Harold and I met about five years ago and we became instant friends. It was really easy to become friends with Harold. And quite honestly, at this stage of life, with a big family and lots of friends, I’m very fussy about who I allow into my inner circle – who I choose to add to my personal network. Harold and I sat on an advisory committee together, for a children’s grief centre. During those meetings, Harold was brilliant, funny, insightful, caring, genuine – I learned so much from him. Our friendship quickly extended beyond those meetings, and we met for lunches and had great phone conversations. I met his wife and boys, and he met my husband and kids – and we all felt connected.
When Harold was diagnosed, I was devastated. How could Harold be stricken with a brain tumour? Harold does more good for others than anyone I know. Harold has a PhD. Harold is devoted to his family. Harold is funny, generous, kind, smart, compassionate. Harold is too young to die.
Within weeks of his diagnosis, I got a message from Harold. Please come over. Harold wanted to talk about this death sentence – less about himself and more about his concern for his wife and kids. Knowing that I had gone through a tragedy at age 13, he wanted to know what I did, and how I got through such profound loss as a teen. Searching for comfort and hope that his family will be okay, we talked endlessly and honestly for hours at a time, every week. When he was in treatment and was too weak or sick for a visit, I checked in with his wife, Suzanne.
Harold got sicker and sicker and our visits ended, but Harold was never far from my thoughts.
I listened to the two eulogies at Harold’s funeral , nodding my head in agreement. Harold was everything they said . . . and more. He was such a great person who truly lived life in a way that mattered. Many, many people loved and admired Harold, and we will all feel a lasting loss with him gone.