Here we are again in election season. I feel myself being emotionally pulled into conversations and online arguments, that regardless of which side is doing the arguing, are basically saying the same thing. Our beliefs are the correct ones (see all of the facts I have to prove this) and yours are incorrect and you must be a horrible person for believing what you believe. It’s easy to go down that road that continues to divide us and vilify one another. We make assumptions. I’m guilty of it too.
In this past year, I’ve probably created and performed about 30 Funeral Services. I usually only have a few days to prepare. Each time, I call the family of the deceased and ask a ton of questions.
What would you tell the world about your loved one?
What were they passionate about?
How did they contribute to the world and those that knew them?
How would they want to be remembered?
What sacrifices did they make?
What were their greatest joys?
What did they hold sacred?
What are their stories?
From these questions I begin to craft a ceremony that honors their life. I find the work challenging, humbling and an honor that is difficult to describe.
Last year I did a funeral service for a man that died after a long illness. The very first thing I learned about him was that he loved guns. Really loved guns. He was a proud American and member of the NRA. Immediately, I noticed my own biases arise. How could I honor someone whose values were so different from mine? Would I be able to put my opinions aside and do what I was being hired to do?
I started asking more questions. I learned that in addition to being passionate about gun rights, he was also gay, Pagan, had a deep respect for the earth and loved to garden. He was famous for the many varieties of bamboo that he grew. Wait, what? I had already made up a story about who I imagined him to be. I ended up creating a ceremony weaving in the truths about bamboo. It’s strength, resilience and ability to bend and not break. I found myself feeling emotional during the service. Afterwards, his husband thanked me and told me I had a beautiful aura. What I learn again and again is that when I can acknowledge my assumptions and become curious, I’m reminded that there is more to us than Red or Blue. Always, and I mean always, our legacy is LOVE.