I cried at my Nana's funeral. I cried for reasons I expected: because I miss her, because I wish I could've spent more time with her, because even when it's long, life is short. I cried because sometimes I just want to be a kid again at my grandparents' house watching cartoons on channel nine and eating cream filled donuts without a care in the world. Yes, those are the tears I expected. But what I didn't expect to cry over was the little spark of joy that kindled in my heart over how funerals can bring people together. I cried in gratitude for the reminder during this deeply divisive time in our country and our world of how much more we all have in common than social media and the advent of memes would have us believe.
Facebook and Twitter alongside specialized news channels and blogs have made labeling people easier and more prevalent than ever, and labeling people makes them easier to despise, dismiss, and demonize. Reducing whole populations of human beings to a hashtag or sound bite often identifies them by their worst traits, dehumanizes them, and builds up the false belief that "we" have nothing in common with "them." And if we have nothing in common, than I have no responsibility to try to understand any views other than those of the people who happen to be lumped into my particular bin -- as if humans can be sorted as easily as trash.
But as I looked around that flower-filled, over-heated funeral home room filled with all types of people -- conservatives and liberals, old and young, gay and straight, skeptics, seekers, atheists, and believers mourning for a woman we all loved -- my wounded heart began to heal a little. I watched people laugh over old stories and cry over cherished memories, I saw family members with wildly different world views catch up on each others lives, talking about work and vacations, children and parents, accomplishments and things they still hoped to accomplish. I listened to everyone giggle at the sound of my two year old saying "Amen!" each time the priest ended a prayer. And it was beautiful. Because the things that truly matter and the things that connect us are bigger and more important than what may divide us. If we let them be...
My Nana was a die hard Cubs fan (and everyone singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the funeral will forever be embllazoned in my heart as one of my favorite memories) my Papa was a dedicated White Sox fan, and yet, they had one of the most beautiful and lasting marriages I have ever been priviledged to witness -- becasue they had love. They treated each other with respect, and it filtered down to the whole family, allowing us all to treat one another with respect at the funeral despite our differences.
How wonderful it would be if we could realize that we are all family in a way, because we all live in this same home -- the earth. What if we lived each day as if it were a funeral? Giving one another an extra amount of grace and understanding, realizing we are all in mourning over some things in our lives. What if we helped one another focus on the light while loving each other through the dark? What if we offered a hug before we bothered to read the label? Even better -- what if we could just do away with labels all together? Maybe we would see the truth that the Hollywood Elite Liberal Woman holding hands in the front pew with the Conservative Evangelical Man were just a daughter and a father comforting one another with the understanding that time is fleeting, life is precious, and love can overcome anything, if we would only give it the chance.
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