Why We Smile At Funerals

I pack my bag to get ready for the day. The usual:
notebook, laptop, lunch. And the little ball of anxiety,
tight as rubber bands, that still expands
the more I find to wrap around it.

Where is hope to be found,
and where the faith that stands on tip-toe?

I pack my bag with what I can find:
a baby crying as he takes first steps;
a line from a prayer;
a field of stars I saw one night;
a vegetable pulled from the ground.
But hope is the thing with feathers
that flits away out of reach.

And then I’m called to a funeral.

Funerals are strange affairs;
I thought I knew this person,
but it turns out they travelled
stranger roads and wilder dreams
on the way to their funeral.
I wonder if they expected to marry
that person in the front row, clutching Kleenex,
or if the children beside her were planned;
if they’d imagined working all those jobs before becoming
a portrait on a table beside the flowers.

It’s hard to shake the feeling
that every friend you make is
a funeral waiting to happen.
So why are we smiling so much?
I haven’t seen these people in ten years.
They now have greying hair,
or four whole kids, or wedding rings.
I remember getting to hold
that twelve-year-old when she was born;
she’s almost as tall as her mother.
We tell our stories of plans fallen through
and dreams unlooked for.
We’re smiling like a birthday,
giggling like children;
we’re still walking stranger roads
than we’d imagined—so we smile
because it’s all we can do.

One day I’ll be a funeral, and I realize,
walking away from the church,
that I’m not sure who will be there.
Who will give the eulogy?
What pastor will preach on grief and joy?
What kind of finger sandwiches
will people fiddle with as they
catch each other up on the last ten years?

Death insists that it’s the end
to which we’re all gathered,
but something more stubborn is stirring.
In the midst of death, we are in life.
So I pack the smiles of a funeral in my bag
and keep walking.

One thought on “Why We Smile At Funerals

  1. This is very nice. Someone once told me that God gives us memories so we have something to smile about. I smile every time I think of my dear parents and my young brother, gone way too soon.

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