This applies to any friendship on any level. It’s something that is not that hard to do but has enormous impact. It means a lot to the widow. It’s enormously soothing to see a physical manifestation that someone’s life really mattered. It reinforces community. Most importantly, it tells the widow that she is not alone, there are people who genuinely care from immediate family to casual friendships. It says there is a web of support out there. It’s deeply humbling and enormously reassuring.
It matters. It’s maybe two hours out of your day. Do it.
You don’t have to say much. The smallest gesture can make a difference. One friend came by the family viewing with a handful of flowers he had chosen because they were the colors of John’s favorite baseball team, the Houston Astros. A small detail but it was thoughtful, it had a big impact on me.
There’s plenty of reasons you might not be able to get to the services—not everyone’s situation permits it. (For alternative suggestions, check out this post) Do your honest best to get there. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but ceremony binds us together. Do not say something along the lines of “Funerals make me sad”. You think that the widow is thrilled to be having this particular party? Really? You think she needs to hear that this terrible ordeal she’s going through is making you feel bad? They make everyone sad, for goodness sake. They’re awful for everyone. That’s why you’re there, to help each other get through it. Put some black clothes on and buck up.
On a funereal note, personally I’m not a fan of the Celebration of Life style of service. For me, John alive was his celebration of life. His family, his friends and our collective recollections of who he was and his influence on all of us continue to be a celebration of his life. His funeral was a sad occasion and I saw no reason to pretend otherwise. But that’s me.
Everyone needs different things at the funeral, so be flexible and go with the flow. Be present. Shake hands or give a hug, depending on your relationship. Sign the book. Then go remember your friend however you like.