I had the chance to go to a funeral yesterday morning. A woman my family knows back at home died this last week of a prolonged battle with leukemia. She was only 26. I didn't know her at all, really, but since my family couldn't come out here (this woman died in Utah, where I'm at, and my family is in Oregon), they sent me as an envoy.
I've only been to two other funerals in my life, and both came when I was much younger, so I didn't really understand much of what was going on in either of them. My great-grandfather died when I was about ten. I remember going to that funeral, but mostly remembering that the service took a really long time. I also remember there being cookies afterward and eating them while talking to my cousin. I went to another funeral when I was about fourteen. Strangely enough, this person had also died of leukemia, although he died at the age of ten. I remember this boy's uncle giving a really nice eulogy and crying a lot at the end, but not much else.
This funeral turned out to be a very different experience for me. The LDS perspective on funerals is unlike what you'll find in most other places. Clearly it's a time to grieve and to mourn the passing of a friend, but there's an eternal perspective that you don't really find anywhere else. The back of the program for the service had the words from the song "Families Can Be Together Forever," which, if you're not familiar with it, go like this:
I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them through all eternity
Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan
I always want to be with my own family
And the Lord has shown me how I can
The Lord has shown me how I can.
They're really nice words, and I thought they were appropriate for such an occasion. I think that most people believe that death, while an unpleasant thing, is merely another step we have to take in life. We'll meet up with the departed later. The perspective was nice.
The thing that most struck me, though, was seeing a bunch of little kids running around during the service. My sister and I showed up a bit late for the service, since we got confused with the no directions that we received. (Even in Utah, where the addresses are listed with a coordinate system, one can get lost. Trust me.) Being late, we sat in the overflow section of the chapel, which opened up into a large gym. Several young children, all of whom were under the age of two, were running around in this gym entertaining themselves. Various people were speaking about the woman who had died and were tearing up, but I couldn't help but watch these little kids innocently amuse themselves. One boy in particular was crawling enthusiastically around some chairs, smiling and waving at people as he passed by. He eventually got up and started running, still waving and smiling periodically. I thought it was really neat to see life come full circle. On the one hand, there was a woman who had just left this mortal coil and was finished with her journey here. On the other hand, there was this little boy who was still relatively new here and was really enthusiastic about life.
The whole experience gave me a nice perspective on life. We're all at different stages, of course, and it was nice to see that all at once. I don't know if I'm doing a good job communicating exactly what I felt, but I can say that I felt pretty good walking out of that chapel. Who would have imagined that a funeral service would give me a boost like that?