Susan Lee Woodward
The Funeral - Living In Grace
The Funeral – Living In Grace
The last couple of weeks I have been in a period of mourning for loved ones of friends and family that have passed, and concurrently, have reflected on my own life. Children, parents, spouses, and pets have died. I attended a funeral to honour a relative and friend of mine and offer support through their palpable sorrow and loss. It was a somber, sad day. I cried as I always do at funerals. I also cried for my deceased mother, my granddaughter, my dad, my brother, and numerous others that have passed. I cried for me too.
When I was in my early 20’s I was an Ernest Hemmingway buff and read everything about him and by him. Of the 1000’s of pages revealing the intricate details of his rather sordid life, this one line stuck with me in how he responded to a reporter about his writing. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” On this I build my foundation because…the truth is all there is. A meaningful life story needs something real to attach itself to.
This rite of passage blessed me with an opportunity to be fully present and engaged in the moment, to examine to my core the essence of eternal life, salvation, and reverence for both the quick and the dead. This person lived a meaningful life. They loved and laughed and bore children. They fed their family and held parties in their honour. They rocked babies in their arms and were generous to others. They ameliorated lives and gave love freely.
I watched and listened to the priest ceremoniously and with sobering words of his
omni-benevolent God, infuse sacraments, and anoint the body. His job was to offer grace to the occasion, soothe the pain of the family, and ritualize the transition out of respect for this person.
The church was filled with reminders of the sacredness of life; golden ornate architecture, paintings of The Last Supper, the disciples, the birth of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection, angels, and the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost). The chandelier was an elaborate masterpiece of design. The fresh cut flowers wafted melodically through the air while the priests sang in Latin. Incense purified the space. A fitting ceremony for a person deeply loved and missed.
After the rites had been delivered, one of the priests gave a sermon on free will. He noted that we are all “human”. We all make mistakes. We all have feelings and emotions that need expression and resolution. That how we conduct our lives and the intentions behind our actions will determine how life unfolds here and in the afterlife. That we deserve dignity and respect. What we say and do matters.
I have an obligation and an opportunity to share the truth of who I am, to respect other people and their beliefs and decisions, and practice introspection to hone my skills within community. We need others to live a full and enriched life. We need love, grace and compassion. What we have we can give freely. The beauty of love is that when given away it increases. It holds the energy of the mathematical natural law of the universe, that when shared, expands exponentially. It is nourishment for and of the heart. In other words, to live in Grace.
Ten Ways to Practice and Live in Grace
1. Tell the truth! Be honest with others and yourself. Be impeccable with your word. Embellishing, obfuscating, or white washing events or conversations do not build grace or community. The heaviness of that energy is palpable.
2. Grace is a way of being. It’s also a verb – action. It means knowing when to zip the lip, and when to speak freely. Some things are better left in the vault. Name calling or hurtful information is the opposite of grace.
3. Sometimes you need to do hard stuff even when you don’t want to because someone else needs you to. Be present, be kind – no complaining, no resentment. Enter with love.
4. Remember to include yourself with acts of grace. Invite in love, kindness generosity, inclusiveness. Close the door to abuse (emotional, physical) and dangerous people.
5. Say yes to anything that brings you closer to loving kind people. Happy occasions, sad occasions, and anything in between are important. We need to feel to connect.
6. If someone is angry at you, ask why before escalating an argument. They may have a point.
7. Spend some of your day, examining your behaviour, not defending it. There is always room for growth.
8. Clean up your own backyard before criticizing another’s. Look at the weeds with curiosity and wonder. How did they get there?
9. Lead with love. The reward is a tender and intimate relationship with yourself. That’s the one that matters most. Heal your heart and lead by example.
10. Listen! Seek to understand. Ask questions.
I hope you will take the leap of faith, join others to live in peace, harmony and grace. It’s worth it. I guarantee it.
~ Susan Lee Woodward
Laughter Yoga Teacher
MBSR Meditation Coach