Exit 246. A memorial service for someone I didn’t know.

Today I attended a memorial service for someone I didn’t know.

Now, before you get creeped out, this isn’t some story about wedding crashing, except for funerals instead.  Do people do that?  It seems wrong.

The deceased was my pastor’s father.  I knew him in the sense that I saw him at church every week.  He wasn’t a stranger.  I said hi to him every week, and we exchanged pleasantries.

But at the service today, looking at pictures of him in childhood, in the Army, at his wedding, and with family, I realized that I never knew who he really was.  I only met him a couple years ago, late in his life, after Alzheimer’s disease had greatly affected his mind and his personality.

Please don’t wait until it’s too late to spend time with your loved ones and tell them how you feel.  Get to know the people around you before it’s too late.  I know there was nothing I could have done differently in this situation; it isn’t like I knew at some point in the past that there would be a man out there somewhere who would become part of my life later on, but he would have Alzheimer’s before I would meet him unless I did something about it.  I don’t have a time machine.

All of this kind of sounds like a cliche.  But it’s true.  And this isn’t the first time that someone passed before I got a chance to really know him, and that other time I could have done something about it.  In that case, it was someone I knew from dancing, who was well known in many of the partner dance communities in the area.  He was an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting in 2012, and no suspect was ever caught, as far as I know.  We were acquaintances and surface-level friends, but I didn’t know him well.  Part of this was because his lifestyle was very different from mine.  Part of this was because another much closer friend of mine had a falling out with this guy before I knew either one of them, so I had heard stories about that guy colored by that perspective.  At his memorial service, I heard a lot of stories from people who had known him better than I had, and I realized that there were many sides to this man that I never knew or would have expected.

Of course, it’s hard to get to know everyone.  There are many people I cross paths with every day.  Some of them are toxic personalities that I’m better off not being in regular contact with.  But maybe there is someone out there whom I need to reach out to before it’s too late.  And maybe there’s someone like that for you too.  Until then, I can know that my pastor’s father is with Jesus, and someday I’ll see him again and get to know who he really is.

3 comments

  1. This is so very sad. And you’re right about not waiting until it’s too late. It makes me think that sometimes we can be surrounded by people – heck, there’s a lot of us on the planet – and yet feel so lonely, how people can live life without interacting with those around them, we all do it. A very poignant post to share.
    Caz x

    1. Yes. And I think it’s becoming more and more common to live life without interacting, especially among the younger generation who spend all their time interacting on phones. I’ve had students who don’t know the names of half the people in their class by the end of the year. And I know the feeling of being surrounded by people and still feeling alone, but for different reasons.

  2. While it’s true that we can’t know everyone in our lives deeply and intimately, we can be more intentional about spending quality time with our friends and family. I know that I’ve been trying to spend time with people one on one or in small groups. It’s very easy to think that we can put these off when tired or busy. But we never know if tomorrow will come.

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