Not loss of respect, but loss “and” respect. At what age do kids understand the permanency of death? Most five years olds don’t, at least not right away. Eight year olds? Nine year olds? It might sink in a little quicker for them. Showing respect around a wake, funeral or other ceremony to honor a recently deceased loved one must be tough for kids to get too. There is always the threat from the parents, “behave or else” at the funeral home, but whay should they? What good does being quiet or sad do for anyone? Especailly if they are getting to see cousins and other family members that they don’t get to see often. They just want to play. Bounce on the sofa, fill their pockets with mints from the funeral home candy dishes and get silly.
I experiecned this this today as my grandmother-in-law just passed away and we attended the wake last night and funeral today. The kids knew and loved her. They will miss her, but the respect piece, the solem atmosphere alluded them for the most part. Conversation after conversation with them proved fruitless. Calm talks, angry talks it didn’t matter. Until the funeral procession left the funeral home on the way to the church and an interesting occurrence transpired.
The procession passed by a softball field that was hosting a senior softball game? As the hearse crept past the field I witnessed a remarkable event. The game stopped and each player in the field, on the benches and fans in the stands all stopped what they were doing, stood up and placed their ball caps over their heart. They did not know who was in the hearse. They did not know our families in the cars that followed. But they knew loss. They knew respect. They grasped the preciousness of life. The value of each moment. Play for the day, honor those who are gone, hug those that grieve but smile because you can.
My kids saw this and were in awe. They got it. A lesson from total strangers. From a greater generation. It sunk in.
Fast forward three hours and my ten year old son asks if he can give a toast at the restauant where we were having the reception. I asked him what he wanted to say then explained that toasts were uncommon at these types of events. I thought about it for a minute or two and said that if he wanted to give a toast, I would support him and help him. He mulled it over for a few minutes then started clinking a salad plate with his metal fork. The din of 100 lunch guests drowned him out. We went to the front of the room, had him stand on a chair and asked his uncle, who read the eulogy at mass, to get everyone’s attention.
My son proceeded to speak clearly, from the heart, with volume and depth, with feeling and love in a succinct and articulate manner. He shared words that brought tears of pride, joy, love and rememberance to the eyes of many. His best line might have been his last “Nana will not only live on in our minds but also in our hearts”. He told me he added that line to make it a speech instead of a toast because his toast was not long enough to be a speech and toasts were uncommon at these types of things
How proud am I? Let me count the ways. He showed courage. Tact. Honor. Love. Respect. Public speaking skills and an artistic assembly of the spoken word.
Loss can help us learn respect. Respect can help us reframe our loss but the eyes, heart and voice of a child are what makes this world a beautiful place
I hope you are having a great day and find time to remember a loved one that was lost too.
Thanks for reading,
Trainer. Coach. Corrective Exercise Specialist