Time has a way of smoothing out the edges, shifting the focus of our memories.
At a funeral, everything is fresh. Everything is raw. Individual details about life and death are more striking and more urgent. Even if you’re trying to put an entire life in perspective, your thoughts and comments are weighted more to the aging shell, the recent conversations, the final day.
When I delivered mom’s eulogy a year ago, I spoke openly about the two different people we had come to mourn. The challenging person who made life more interesting shared equal billing with the woman who made a home and welcomed her family. Everyone at the service had gotten to know her well during her 94 years, and I wanted to recognize the full arc of that life.
By the time we gathered a couple of weeks ago to unveil her marker, though, the focus had shifted. We acknowledged the difficult parts, but stressed more of the positives. We spent more time with the woman who hosted the holidays and kept up the traditions, who showed up at all her grandchildren’s events and became a pen pal to two of her great grandchildren. Her grandchildren spoke about the blooper reels, of course, but they also described the lessons learned and traditions continued, the legacy she passed on to a new generation.
During the year since she left, my sister put together a gathering of cousins from mom’s side of the family and it was truly eye opening. We knew about some of the dysfunction and some of the tough characters who came before us, but the reality was worse, and it re-framed my view of mom’s life. She was a tough contract, absolutely, but things could have been a lot worse. I had not thought previously about her struggle to get past the family culture she inherited, but my new awareness put a softer filter on my memories.
Life is graded on a curve, with a million relevant factors for the ultimate judge. Where did we start? What tools were we given? What was the degree of difficulty? How hard did we try? In the day-to-day, we measure people on an absolute scale and find them wanting. With the benefit of hindsight, or distance, we can and should be more forgiving.
After the dedication, we all went back to my sister’s house and spent the rest of the afternoon together, talking and reminiscing and being a family. Looking around at the people, enjoying the ease of our conversations and the closeness of our bonds, I was reminded of the woman who did so much to set the table for us.
I went home that night and pulled up the eulogy I delivered a year ago. If I was doing it again, I’d add more stories to emphasize the effort she made, the challenges she had faced in her own family, and the traditions she passed on to the generations that followed.
Time has a way of smoothing out the edges.
Maybe I’ll mellow out a bit more as the coming year progresses, but you’ll only learn about it if you click here to subscribe.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.