I wish I had known! I wish someone had told me! I wish that they would have had some type of service! I wish I would have had the opportunity to say goodbye! I wish I could have paid my respects!
I wish becomes the common cry of those prevented from being a part of the final journey. It is what is felt when someone we know has died and we only find out by a chance conversation that often starts with a question, how is ___________?
Modern life has sent us in so many directions that relationships which seemed would be eternal are separated by time. How often do we see an old friend and after catching up and truly enjoying the time we say the same words: we really need to get together more often. Unfortunately, time and the bustle of life interfere with that meaningful intent and we find ourselves years later saying the same thing. Time and daily responsibilities are inescapable task masters, preventing us from doing all that we wish.
An old friend of mine died after a long battle with cancer. His family had what would be considered a traditional funeral; a wake, a funeral mass, the burial and a luncheon gathering. I am so thankful that the family made the decision to allow me, an old friend, the opportunity to grieve with them and to remember. The traditional funeral allowed me to say goodbye, to hug his wife and offer her my sympathies and most of all to stand at the casket and say goodbye.
At the place of final interment we are given one last opportunity to say goodbye and to be reminded of the promise that on the last day we will be united in body and spirit. This promise made by our Lord and Savior is evident when standing in a Catholic cemetery surrounded by all those who have already begun that final journey to Christ. Walking the cemetery I come upon the resting place of my old friend and I can now take a moment and remember and for this I thank his family. They have given themselves and us a gift of a place to go to remember a life well lived. It is where we can go and smile because we had the privilege of being a part of a good man’s life.
Society is making it more acceptable to simply set aside the death of a loved one for the convenience of a later date or even to avoid it altogether through cremation and non-burial without any opportunity to remember. Death does not arrive at a convenient hour and when confronted with its reality, all we wish is to have the opportunity to say goodbye.
When given the opportunity to grieve with the family through a traditional funeral and interment, the only wish left is the one where we wish we had more time.
Andrej N. Lah