By Craig Funston
I attended something that resembled a funeral the other day. Obviously the person in question was there; plus there were hordes of people taking time out of their busy schedule pay their respects; and then there were the usual eulogies (in the truest sense of that word)
It only resembled a funeral. It was, in fact, a birthday party: My brothers and I put together a birthday bash for the matriarch of the Funston clan—that would be my mother– Elsie Anne Funston (nee Latta), formerly of Edmonton, Alberta.
I would say that there were possibly 250 invited guests present. There could have easily been more: It was a delicate balance between asking many or few in hopes of avoiding the intimate touch. We would have asked more of her contemporaries, but at 90, she has lost most of them due to their own passing away.
My mother is special for a number of reasons, some of which I have alluded to over the years, so I won’t bore you with the facts again. In fact, she is special to me for the same reason that your mother is likely special to you.
I feel a genuine pity for those who A. can’t say that about their mother because she wasn’t; or B. can’t say that about their mother because she isn’t (as in “isn’t with us any longer”).
The birthday bash, dubbed a “pre-funeral” was the brainchild of one of my brothers. Ironically, he’s the funeral director in the family, so he’s never too far from death himself. He may have picked up the notion from seeing too many grieving families wishing they could have said this or done that to the loved just lost. I don’t know, but that may have factored into this brilliant idea.
The other factor may have been that he has hung around me enough to have some of my maverick, clever ideas rub off on him. Just my humble view, Maurice…
Because of her commitment to her God, her husband, her family, and her church—and in that order, I strongly suggest—she has had an unbelievable influence in her world. When she, Dad, their handsome son and his three brothers moved to Richmond in the late ’50s, it was a rural setting, crisscrossed by ditches—though you could almost call them canals. There were acreages, including dairy farms, just minutes from our house.
The Richmond of yesteryear resembles nothing like the Richmond of today, what with its heavy multi-ethnic population and overwhelming urbanization. I hate going there anymore, but I do for one reason only—you guessed it, to visit my mother.
If your mother is from the generation mine is, the following observations are true for you, too: She was always there when I walked the mile or so to school, and there when I got home; the three meals a day, plus the necessary snacks at the appropriate times, were part and parcel of my secure childhood.
Because I had no sisters, and because I was number four in the pecking order (unless, like me, you count from the bottom up), I became experienced in the art of cooking, cleaning, washing, and dusting. Didn’t necessarily like it, but in those days one didn’t negotiate with parents. Things had to be done, and parents were in charge. (Remember those days?) Cruel parents, I’d say; made me do regular chores, attended church three to four times a week—and of course, we didn’t have television.
My brother who did the brunt of the organizing for Mom’s birthday bash selected various people to give their respective eulogies (again, used in the truest sense of the word for you wordsmiths), representing a number of decades of my mother’s influence. Very clever and heartwarming, indeed, and there was a consistent, positive thread throughout the afternoon.
One thing that really stood out in my mind was the years—no, that would be decades—of her servant’s heart, expressed through hospitality, entertainment, church life, and Bible studies. And that was while she was still maintaining a home, with a husband and four sons, as her first (but not only) priority.
But the other observation that really got to me was the fact that no one ever saw her get angry—or even bad mouth people. That would include me: I was home till I was almost twenty-seven years old, and I never saw or heard her get mad. It just never dawned on me; it was so customary that I missed it.
So, a eulogy without the body, a funeral without a casket. What a novel idea!
By the way, is there anyone that you would like to eulogize before they can no longer hear it?