This morning I attended the funeral of a 17-year-old.
- I got there twenty minutes early, and the parking lot was already full; I joined a dozen other cars parked down the street. By the time the service was over, I noticed that there were more people there than at most stake conferences I’ve ever seen.
- It was also one of the longer funerals I’ve ever attended. It was nearly a full hour and a half long, where most are closer to a single hour. The speakers all just had so many wonderful stories to tell about what kind of young man this was and how he spent his life.
- There was certainly grieving and crying, but like many funerals I’ve seen, there was mostly an air of celebrating the boy’s life: the speakers focused much more on their funny and inspiring memories than on lamenting his loss. One speaker even explicitly quoted another friend as saying that the deceased boy was fine, it was those he left behind who need comfort. Though many people miss him, everyone there clearly understood that he’s in a better place, and it really changed the atmosphere.
- So was it a cheerful funeral? No, it wasn’t cheerful, but it wasn’t hopeless, either. He died in a hiking accident, not in a gang shooting, not of a drug overdose, not from reckless driving. The tragedy here isn’t that he died, or even how he died, but merely that he died so soon, when he clearly had so much rich living left to do, and so many people who enjoyed being blessed by his presence.
- In fact, afterwards as I was leaving, I passed a woman who was saying to her friend, “I couldn’t imagine a better way to go.” Maybe she meant that he died doing something good that he loved, but I also think it applies to how he lived: this was a life largely free of regrets and mistakes–the eulogies testified to that. I’ve been to other funerals where the real tragedy was that the life of the deceased had been wasted and sterile–mourners were few and had little significant to say about the deceased’s life, other than bland, generic platitudes. This young man probably did more solid living in 17 years than many people these days do in a full lifetime.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it another million times: the lesson of death is always, always, always this: cherish the living.