My Love Hate Relationship Toward Funerals
By Kerry Patton
“Sit and wait. In the military we constantly hear this phrase which we have all learned to despise. But how do we hold on to hope if we cannot learn to sit and wait? More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The aforementioned was stated by one of the base chaplains during a memorial service I attended in Dover AFB for Senior Airman Keifer Huhman this past Friday. Admittedly, I re-wrote the exact phrasing as I was too moved to capture it all in my head to later be transcribed here. But I was moved nonetheless.
The Chaplain’s words caught my attention and in a unique un-describable way, lifted me. I could tell I was not alone as I listened to her words considering everyone around me showed physical signs of embracing everything she said. The memorial service was beautiful.
If you never attended a military memorial service, count your blessings. They are some of the most moving services one could ever witness. The precision of the color guard. The roll call of the unit and the silence not hearing the departed respond. The folded flag/s being handed over to the next of kin. Nothing is easy about a military funeral. Nothing.
Oddly enough and understandably so, many people hate having to attend memorial services or funerals. It’s understandable. But we should also learn to embrace them and find the good that comes with such services.
Admittedly, I do have a love hate relationship towards funerals.
For the obvious reasons, funerals are a result of death. No one likes death but it is a part of life which we all must at one point or another in our lives come to grips with. We don’t need to like the circumstance in which a person leaves this world but we should make all attempts to celebrate their lives as much as possible while we simultaneously mourn our loss.
This past Friday, I actually witnessed one of the most difficult memorial services I ever attended. The service itself was for one of my best friend’s sons. I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the base chapel. At the end of the day though, the magnitude of love shined down on all of us in attendance.
I am not the type of guy who wears my religion on my sleeve but I heard words of love and compassion spoken from God. His words bring a spirit of comfort and healing—something I wish we all heard more often then we already do (Maybe one reason I tend to find myself listening to Christian Rock more and more these days).
“There are no Atheists in fox holes” may or may not be truly accurate. But what I do know to be accurate was for about an hour, persons of all denominations, even those who do not believe in God, were in attendance listening to God’s words. And those words, in many ways, could be construed as an opportunity to learn.
Everyone in attendance had an opportunity to learn something new about SrA Huhman. Even his mother and father, aunts and uncles, and closest of friends heard something they likely never knew about their beloved Airman. His love for computer games, Disney movies, Motorcycles, music, etc. Where else but a funeral do you truly get to learn about another person then when you hear words spoken from family and friends?
Funerals bring us together. We get to see people we actually truly care about whom we normally do not see due to our overly busy lives. This Friday, I got to see several close friends of mine whom I haven’t seen in over ten years. I also got to see my Godson who I haven’t seen in over ten years as well. And the best part? I actually got to hold my Godson in my arms and embrace him during one of his most vulnerable times in his incredibly young life and at the same time, he got to feel my love—something he hasn’t felt since his baptismal over ten years ago.
As much as I hated being there at SrA Huhman’s memorial, I learned as I often do after attending a funeral, how beautiful such services really can and should be. Next to weddings, how often do we really get an opportunity to come together as a family, not necessarily entirely by blood, but more importantly through love? It’s an unfortunate reality but sometimes we just need to learn that celebrating the life of those who go before us can actually have a lasting effect to bring us all closer together.
I hate funerals but that is mostly due to selfish reasons not wishing to see a friend or love one go before me. Sometimes our selfishness takes away from another reality, though. That reality is seeing how much love surrounds us during one of our most grieving moments—laying a friend or family member to rest.
America may have lost an Airman. The Huhman family may have lost a son, brother, nephew, etc. But truth be told, he is not lost. No. For those who believe, he is with God looking down on us waiting for our own personalized conversations. And he will be there listening.