Monday, February 20, 2012

Memorial Service

He was one of the first of the Baby Boomers, born in 1946—three years and a generation behind me. The sexual revolution, the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Liberation and the Vietnam War made it so.

He left us by his own choice, under a cloud of depression and with a brain fogged by alcohol. I was angry. And I was apprehensive about attending his memorial service.

But I wanted to support the family, and so I went.

The service began on time—a good sign. But I squirmed as the minister started off on what sounded like a sermon. After only a few remarks, he stopped. The family wanted to begin the service with two songs, he said, favorites of the man we were honoring.

The first song began. After a few notes, subdued laughter trickled around the room. I didn’t recognize the tune until the vocals began. Running on Empty. I relaxed.

The second song surprised me: Sinatra’s version of Fly Me to the Moon. My eyes filled with tears at the last phrase, “in other words, I . . . love . . . you!” It was a message to all of us who had filled the room.

And the room had overflowed. I worried the service would go on and on, with everyone wanting to share a special story.

My friend’s son soon dispelled my concern. He invited two friends to speak briefly, then completed the service with a story about his dad. It seems the son had purchased a house that needed major updating. He attempted a couple improvement projects with disastrous results. Without judgment, his dad offered suggestions and pointed his son toward others who could assist.

“So, please, reach out when you can help,” the son said. “Volunteer, do service work, contribute to your favorite charity. And accept help when it’s offered. My dad would like that very much.”

The service lasted less than an hour, yet was complete. I left—no longer angry—and remembered that, as long as anyone is alive who remembers this man, his spirit lives.