Beautiful funeral offers lessons about living

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I went to a funeral today, and it was beautiful.

I remember the 48-year-old man who passed after a bout with cancer as the teenager a few years older than me who would attend church with his mom in the early 1980s.

He would visit perhaps once a year, and he would sit quietly by himself and leave as soon as service was over. I did not know him well. Yet I attended his funeral today, and it was beautiful.

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I have not been a member of that church for over 20 years. His mother was my Sunday School teacher, and I’m still privileged (after having moved around the past 20 years) to play golf with his father periodically.

They both are such wonderful human beings. They are pleasant, peaceful, loving people. When I arrived at the viewing before the service, I hugged both of them and extended my deepest sympathies.

They hugged me tightly and their peaceful, loving smiles took me a bit by surprise. For sure, the pain and loss is being felt, but there was such a peace.

During the service today, those same words I just spoke about his parents were echoed about him.

What really moved me were so many references by the speakers to the following: they never remember him having a bad word to say about anyone; he never did harm to anyone; he was completely comfortable being himself and not putting on a facade to impress anyone; and that so many were inspired by knowing him.

If that had been my eulogy, people would have had to lie to say that about me. I am not be self-loathing; just honest.

In my quest to gain, get, advance, and opine, I have spoken ill about many. I have harmed many emotionally. I am not completely at peace with who I am. Yet today, at this man’s funeral, I felt hope that I could change.

This man, to my knowledge, never won high school accolades, did not go to college, was never recognized as a community leader, was never promoted to high-level positions of responsibility, and did not have the things I sometimes think are so important.

Yet, to the large crowd attending his funeral today, he was an inspiration — someone who never spoke ill about anyone and who never did anyone harm.

So to my neighbors in the Tri-State area, I fervently hope that when we cross paths in the mall, at a restaurant, at a gas station, or at civic events, that I am not so engrossed in pursuing life that I fail to live it at that moment and extend a warm smile to you.

Regardless of our race, religion, political views, sexual orientation, or social status, I hope I am pleasant, peaceful, and loving.

I hope in that moment an unspoken celebration of life takes place — if only for a brief moment, because that is really how long we are here anyway.

I went to a funeral today, and it was beautiful.

Tony Burge, Sr.