I have been fortunate that, in my relative youth, I have attended so few funerals in my life. The few that I have attended have mostly been somber affairs that were either uncomfortably maudlin or oddly mismatched to the person, as though the family suddenly threw a quick batch of One-Coat E-Z Religion paint on top of a very earthly and irreverent life, with no thought to the awkward and unhappy friends surrounding them. (There are a minute number of exceptions.)
This was not one of those awkward days. This... this was a glorious day.
This was a gathering of friends, a joining of hearts, and a celebration of life that was incredibly genuine and spiritual, and at the same time so easily grasped by my skeptical, mortal hands. By Steve's request, the celebration opened with Hotel California and closed with Teenage Wasteland, and yet, there was no incongruity in the music that book-ended the many speeches about Steve's bravery, realism, and practical spirituality. We listened to Pat read the 23rd Psalm. We all recited together the Prayer of St. Francis. Those who loved him best gently roasted him as though we were toasting Steve's best accomplishments at a birthday party, not wishing him a last farewell.
And it really was a birthday party of sorts. The minister - Joan? - reminded us that Steve died on Easter Eve, and that his rebirth could not come at a more appropriate time than Easter, in the middle of spring, in the rolling hills of Virginia. Pat told us of Steve's last visions of peace, with his dog by his side and his goats in the fields around him. Steve himself picked out his last resting place, on the green hill with a view of the valley. Pat and Steve's family stood tall in the dappled shade by the graveside for one last prayer, then we were all asked to take a handful of dirt to sprinkle over him.
Many people drove for two and three hours to get to the service, and considered it no sacrifice at all. The bright little church was filled to standing room only, and afterwards people spilled over the lawn from cemetery to church door. The tables overflowed with food; the few flower bouquets blended into the sunshine. It was a beautiful day, and well deserving of Steve's final hurrah.
Miss Me - But Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little - but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared
Miss me - but let me go.
For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all a part of the Master's plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me - but let me go.