We were all standing slightly apart from each other on Tuesday. A quietly shuffling group of people, and a cold wind forcing hands to be pushed deep into coat pockets. There was obvious and understandable melancholy in the chilled air. I looked for little moments of recognition between the people arriving and those who had arrived already. Funerals are not a place for conversations, just for weak smiles, an exchange of knowing looks and for eyes filled with the realisation of loss.
This close to the end, there is no comfort in grief, it is raw and unyielding. Nor will grief let you feel another’s pain, it only reminds you of your own. However, listening to the tributes for a dearly loved man, the room began to fill with memories that are already a gift of comfort and gratitude. When a family photograph caused an audible chuckle, the sadness for his absence was now wrapped in the warmth of his memory. A life cannot be described in just a few minutes, but if we allow time for fond memories to be recalled a whole life is appreciated. The difference we make is not in the things we acquire and bequeath, but in the memories we share with those for whom we care.
The world turns, even though we want to pause; deadlines loom and people will inevitably step into our line of sight with their issues, concerns and problems for us to solve. It will always be hard for us to make time for ourselves, but that is the purpose of memories. Memories tap us on the shoulder and catch us in the moment. Memories take us to places where we do not have to pretend and we are uniquely real, where we remember how others have made us feel. We are not made by the workaday tasks we complete, but we are shaped by the memories that we create.
In memories there is the influence of those who we have shared something precious with us. Their care and example are now in our manner, our tone and in our deeds. We should not therefore memorialise the shape of a man or count his property as telling us anything of note; but beyond their days, we are their legacy, a reflection of their love and of their ways.
Typically, work is a to-do list as long as our arm, with back-to-back meetings and immovable deadlines placed to scupper our hopes for time to plan and think. For some these things are a badge of honour, but for most of us they are a straitjacket on our time to be ourselves. There is something soulless about such days, filled in this way.
Tomorrow’s course is already set, and if we are not careful each following day will be just like the last. It is therefore down to us to ensure that each day includes small acts of kindness and gifts of love. The most important thing we can ever do is to make a memory with someone that they will carry long after the moment has passed.
On Tuesday we left a lovely man to rest in peace. When our light dims, and it is our turn to be the reason people gather in our name, shuffling in the cold and eyes filled with sadness, I hope we will be remembered for the light we have given to others. What a wonderful thing to still be part of their journey with the memories that we made together, and which will now accompany them forever.
Take care. Paul xx