Thursday, February 10, 2011

One More Kiss

“One more kiss” she said as they tried to lead her away. “One more kiss.” So her friends held her up and turned her around so she could lean over the casket and kiss her sister one last time. Funerals, if you pay attention when you’re there, have a way of waking you up to a generally ignored but inescapable truth, you are going to die. People you love are going to die. And, when it happens there is no going back. You cannot apologize, or forgive, or bless, or inspire, or love a dead person. They are gone, and all the sweet, sappy things we say about dead people at funerals don’t help that corpse in the tiniest way. Besides that, they aren’t true; she did have a mean bone in her body, he did actually say unkind things, yes, she was selfish in some ways. I’ve often wondered why lies are so freely offered and consumed at funeral services. Maybe we say that stuff to make ourselves feel better for a little while, but it doesn’t really help much when deep down inside we know it isn’t true.
I think that much of what passes for grief at funerals isn’t really grief, it is regret. It is the empty ache inside when you know you should have said you’re sorry, you know you should have made those visits, you know you should have enjoyed the good and had patience with the annoying – and now you can’t. So now you stand around and whisper little sweet sounding lies to bless and celebrate someone who can no longer hear you.
As I watched that little old lady give her dear sister “one more kiss” God called to my mind all at once a whole sea of faces and he screamed in my ear “Go Kiss Them Now!” Go hug them now! Go encourage and forgive and affirm them now! Go now and let them know that even though they aren’t perfect, even though you disagree sometimes, even though they have some bad habits you love them and appreciate them and you are grateful for them! Go! Now!
I hope that when you die I won’t have to say anything nice and kind and affirming about you that I haven’t repeatedly said to you. I hope I am learning to love you well even when you are wrong and selfish and annoying, in spite of all that. I hope that God is teaching me to number my days so I live aware of how precious and fleeting our flesh is. I hope that when I lean over your casket and give you one more kiss it is a kiss of gratitude and love, no regrets.
I have a lot of work to do.