While we were in Wisconsin, my mother got a phone call informing her that her uncle- my Great Uncle- had died. His name was Ron Griffin, but we all knew him as “Shine.” Though the youngest of five (my family is a large one), he had cancer and unexpectedly succumbed to it much earlier than any of us had thought.
I don’t have a picture of him, but if you imagine a very large, fluffy black teddy bear, that’s a perfect description of what he looked and acted like. Though large and scruff, his eyes were always smiling. And very often, his eyes were the only way you had of communicating with him, because he was a man of very few words.
I hate funerals because they are sad and I hate conveying any significant emotion. But I also love them, because they are such a reminder that people walk through life gathering pieces of love in their personal lifesatchels and at the end, when they go, their funeral is like someone’s opened their satchel and counted the love and used it to say goodbye.
You hear stories, and I love stories. I love stories because the world is like a huge 3-D puzzle where each piece is a story. Time is one large quilt where each stitch is a story, and the fabric of time is an infinite weaving process where the loom is the pen and the quilt is the paper upon which stories are written and of which stories are made. It’s so easy to understand people, and the world, and time, and humanity, when you understand that they only operate in the way that they do because they are acting upon stories and writing their own stories and this is all in an effort to create a cleaner page (of paper made up of stories) for Time’s future protagonists to write more beautiful stories, and more seamlessly (which is a funny phrase when you think that those seams are woven of stories).
Ron didn’t want a funeral where everyone cried. He didn’t want to cause the world any more pain than he had to. And so he was cremated, and the service was short, and full of funny anecdotes and beautiful songs. There was no receiving line and no line of tears through which people waded.
Pippin: “I didn’t think it would end this way.”
Gandalf: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”
Pippin: “What? Gandalf? See what?”
Gandalf: “White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
Pippin: “Well, that isn’t so bad.”
Gandalf: “No. No, it isn’t.”
I won’t pretend that I believe in an afterlife. But there was food, and laughter, and family, and a beautiful time in which people remembered a beautiful person.
And that’s how a funeral should be.