I recently attended the funeral of a family member of someone that is close to me. I know funerals are uncomfortable for most anyone to attend, but I despise going to funerals. Not because of the finality of seeing someone that so many people cared about being buried, but for very different reasons.
The first funeral I attended was in high school. My friend had been stabbed several times in his own apartment building and left to die in the staircase. My cousin called me at 5:00 in the morning to break the news to me and I could hear the sadness in his voice.
I remember the emotions of that day, the whaling of mothers and sisters, the quiet tears of friends and relatives; so much passion being shown for a life lost far too soon. I remember thinking how sincere all of those emotions seemed and thought from that day forward everything would be different. No one would return to the same life that had dozens of loved ones shoveling dirt on their son, brother, nephew, friend, cousin, classmate; whoever he was, he meant something to everyone that was there.
But a hot table of comfort food and a few sips of dark rum later and I realized that nothing changed. Everyone went back to living in the disharmony that created the environment for the funeral in the first place. I vowed from then to never attend another funeral where the circumstances arouse from chaos.
Then this happened. A fatal disease taking the life of one of its captures. I sat in my pew and thought about the domestic turmoil that plagued the family almost as fatally as the disease that infested the lifeless body. Sisters that don't speak, parents estranged from their children, mother judging her daughters; all of the ingredients for domestic disharmony.
All of those ingredients, except now none of it mattered. Sisters cried on sisters shoulders, mothers held their daughters, old conflicts gave way to somber emotions. I sat and watched and tried not to be cynical. I hoped that the death of a family member would squash whatever squabbles previously fractured the household. I said a silent prayer for the departed soul and another for the souls that were still present in this world and were left to either forge a new path in love and forgiveness, or continue down the road of hatred and pettiness.
I don't know how this story will end. I don't know which path this family will take. I do know that time is a relentless force that can be as generous as it can be debilitating. And I know there are countless souls wishing for the former. A life can make a difference even in death, but only if we learn the lessons that we failed to see before that life was taken.