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Being There

September 1, 2004

I went to a funeral the other day. It was the funeral of an elderly couple who had been married 64 years and died at their home on the same day. They were well-loved in the community, and the church was crammed. But I only knew this couple by reputation, as names frequently mentioned by my parents.

I went for their daughter.

I suppose I donít know this lady well, and I guess I really never did. I knew her well by association, though not personally. Hers was the first childís face I saw when I stepped on the bus my very first day of kindergarten, and we rode the bus together from the day I started kindergarten till she graduated high school. Throughout our elementary years, she was the bane of my existence with her teasing. When I entered fifth grade, we shared gym classes, and I got to know her a little better, but this was our pre-teen and early teen years, and she was, after all, a whole year older than me, and much more mature! So for those years she pretty much ignored me. Then a strange thing happened in high school. She began to come sit beside me on our bus, even when it was mostly empty, and talk to me. By the time she graduated, we were ďbus friends,Ē visiting on the hour-long route all the time, although once off the school bus, our lives went separate paths. I really missed her my last year of school.

I attended her high school graduation. I think she attended mine, but Iím not positive. I attended her wedding. She attended my brotherís graduation in 1987, and that was the last time I saw her till about a year ago, when I ran into her at Wal-Mart. I knew she lived near me, but we had never kept in touch. We were acquaintances, not really friends. But it was good to see her, and she seemed happy to see me.

When I learned about her parentsí deaths, I knew I had to go to the funeral. I didnít know what Iíd say to her, if I had a chance to say anything at all, but I knew I had to go, and at least sign the guest book so sheíd know I had been there. The funeral was a huge show of solidarity, a community saying farewell to one of their own who had been with them for over sixty years. There were many older people, of course, but also quite a few young people. Iím sure most came to pay their respects to the deceased. I came to offer my support to the living.

After the funeral, I saw her standing all alone. I was amazed that she wasnít surrounded by family and friends, but she was alone. I went up and hugged her. I wanted to say something profound, but all that came out was, ďI had to come.Ē

I donít think it mattered. The important thing was that she knew I cared enough to come. Sometimes actions speak louder than words. Sometimes words arenít even necessary. Sometimes just being there is all one can do for another person. And sometimes thatís all that matters.