Tonight was the viewing for Ron, who I wrote briefly about last week. I was so touched - albeit a bit embarrassed - at his family printing out that short blog post I wrote about him and had it out at the viewing. If I had known they'd read it, much less print it out and others would read it, I would have put more time and attention to it. But I think they got my sentiment - which was he was such a good man and would be missed - and that is what I wanted to say. Seeing all of the pictures out tonight celebrating his life - some of which were from our years as neighbors, a few funny ones with my dad - was really nice.
When Kevin and I arrived at the funeral home, we waited in the lot because we made great time and were early. I was so appreciative he was with me, as it is his birthday and I really understood if he wanted instead to be with his parents and the girls. So we talked a bit in the car and I told him I felt sick to go inside - it was the same place my dad was laid out, and I didn't know what I'd feel. I was remembering other viewings I've been to also, and I started to cry thinking of one for a classmate of mine when I was young. I don't remember how old she was - perhaps 12ish? - but she died from I think leukemia. I attended the viewing with my good friend Kimmie, as we had been in Girl Scouts with her. I will never forget walking in that room and seeing tons of stuffed animals and pictures of their family in Disney and doing normal things...and here she was, lifeless. I had only been to a couple viewings by then in my life, and they were of older family members, nothing like this. I felt so bad for her mom, but I remember being surprised she wasn't bawling her head off. And she came over to Kimmie and I and hugged us, and thanked us for being such good friends to her daughter. And oh this is where the tears came in -- because I wasn't a good friend to her daughter. I never made fun of her to her face, nothing like that, but my heart wasn't warm towards her - she was different - even more different than me. (Because by no stretch of the imagination was I a cool kid.) Her mom was thanking us, and I felt like a fraud and guilty beyond belief.
I cried tonight remembering it - my feelings of remorse and guilt, the stuffed animals, her poor mom. I can look at it now with the clarity of an adult...her mom, burying her only daughter, thankful that some kids seemed to care, because not many did. She wasn't bawling her head off because her daughter had already gone through hell and perhaps there was even some relief that her precious baby was not in pain anymore, and in Heaven. I can understand the dork of a kid I was...wanting to be "cool" but not knowing how...but knowing that being friends with her wouldn't take me there. I wish I could tell my young stupid self that I should've been friends with her, she probably would've taught me more about life than I could imagine, and who did I think I was.
I'm grateful for these lessons, because I am trying to raise my daughters to embrace all kinds of friends - that we all have different gifts, beauties, and even sometimes special needs. But we are all unique and made in God's image, with no one being better than anyone else. I wish I could go back and be her friend, but I can't. What I can do, is be a friend now, to others, and to raise my children to be friends.
I told Ron's daughter Meaghan tonight, that one of the things I liked about Ron is that he liked my dad. My dad was different - uncool, if you will. Actually, it depended on what circle he was in - to his choir friends he was the coolest! :) But Ron embraced my family even though we were different than his, and he never made my dad feel uncool. He'd invite my dad down (or my dad would invite himself) to have a drink on his red deck in back of his red house...
Well, I will always drive by that red house and think of Ron. Sometimes people dying still teach the people that are living a thing or two. And then they are never forgotten, their goodness lives on in people trying to be just like them. And what is a greater honor than that, and a greater mark upon this earth, than being an example to others.