People don't attend funerals like they used to do. It seems, years ago, family and friends would gather at funerals to 'pay their last respects' to the person or console the family experiencing death. Not that way now! Sometimes only a 'handful' of folks gather to comfort and console families in grief. Many times the deceased are folks that have lived a long, productive life, giving themselves away for the benefit of others. Now they are just a memory in the sands of times, soon to be forgotten. They have outlived many of their contemporaries, and the younger generations 'can't stop long enough to say "thanks for investing in us".
Now I am not suggesting we have groups of 'professional mourners' as in Jesus' day. But out of concern, love and respect – wouldn't we all be encouraged if folks would drop by to express sympathy or attend the hour-long funeral. It would be a reminder "that it really did matter that I lived", or such. Maybe we all need to do a better job at cultivating and developing our friendship circles.
I know a person who had a listing of 150 (or more) names of folks that has 'touched his life'. These are men he wants to 'touch' in some way during the year. So annually, he devises a plan to stay in contact with them. Through notes, cards, letters, phone calls, emails, brief visits, etc. he makes efforts to stay in touch. This is his way of keeping special memories alive. Several of these live out of the country (facebook, emails, skype, etc); some are out of state (phone calls, emails, notes or occasional visit); and some live nearer, (frequent calls or brief visits). He has a file of names and makes note when he contacts them. Wow! That's a lot of trouble just to stay in touch. He said, 'yes, it is, but the memories stay alive and provide an inner strength just knowing they have touched my life in special ways'.
Well, for him it wasn't too much trouble. If friendships are as valuable as we say they are, he reasoned, the work required to keep fueling them is worth it all. He had written some 'precious memories' of each person and how they had influenced him. Each year he added to the notes. Over time he built a small collection of notes relating to his friends. Now this sounds like the makings of a good book to read on relationships. Think of a television series examining each week one of these friendship relationships. It may not be as popular as Monday Night Football, but it might challenge some of us to slow down and evaluate our lives; maybe earmark the most important aspects of growing deeper relationships. Three years worth of shows! All wholesome and heart-warming!
In Proverbs Solomon shares many truths about friends and their importance in one's life. He mentioned also, 'there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother'. And David and Jonathan were examples of true friends, pushing back the limits of such relationships in their day. Jesus said, 'greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend.'
As we begin this New Year, a challenge to consider it this: Develop new friends and some deeper relations with old friends. Minister to grieving families – attend funerals, make visits in their homes, send notes to comfort and encourage. Make lists of special memories to store away for future readings or to share with family memories of those who have passed on. It is true that precious memories seem to linger long after one's death. May that be so for each of us!