Beautiful symphonies

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I went to a funeral two days ago. It marked the life of a wonderful man who had reached the incredible age of 102.

It always shocks me that I still I still find funerals difficult. I really try. As snow fell outside the ancient Gloucestershire church, I tried to stay focussed on my friend. In a voice taut with grief she read The Good Indian’s Prayer, a favourite of her Dad’s. I only made it to the second hymn before I was fumbling for tissues. It doesn’t matter how much I tell myself that I’m not there for Juliette and to stop being so self-absorbed, at funerals my thoughts always travel back to Juliette’s life, and to Juliette’s death.

I listened harder as others spoke about the spiritually good, full, and interesting life this grand old man had lived, and about the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren he had seen into the world. I felt admiration for this special person, and incredibly sad for all the things Juliette never achieved. Then I listened closer to how much the man had been loved, how he made everyone feel special and the way he had touched the lives of everyone he met, and realised they could have been talking about Juliette.

Really, it’s only about the length of their lives. Juliette could not have lived more fully in the time she had, and could not have touched more deeply those who knew her. If Juliette had been a soldier in India, a farmer, trained as a healer and brought children into the world, would her life have been better? Would she have been happier than the little girl who giggled through chemo and baldness, who found every day ‘itciting’ and made everyone she met feel a better person for having known her?

I will never find out. I have to bring my focus back to what she did do, how much she loved and was loved, and to remember that her short life had intense beauty.

“We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents…Sometimes the ‘unfinisheds’ are among the most beautiful symphonies.” Victor Frankl.

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4 thoughts on “Beautiful symphonies

  1. A parent is not supposed to bury a child. They are supposed to bury us. My beautiful daughter died 84 days ago… She lived life to the full. Despite battling debilitating ill health she never gave up. On her death bed she said “Mommy, I don’t want to die. I want to live!”

    Reply
  2. I loved this Geves. It is not the length of our lives, it is the content, we know this, but when it is a child, our child, it is most difficult to accept. Wonderful Frankl quote, very fitting.

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  3. It’s beautiful isn’t it, Susan? I wish none of us had to choose to view life this way – our children should have grown old – but I find it comforting to remember the intensity of Juliette’s days with us.

    Reply

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