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Last month I received a number of excellent responses to my thoughts in the newsletter about giving spoilers to readers so that they won't get anxiety about what's going to happen to the characters in the book. There was also one negative response. Maybe I'll elaborate on that in the newsletter I'm doing for this month. I had also promised to address the hollow promises of fortune cookies. You'll have to sign up for the letter to discover what I have to say about those things.
In the meantime, I recently had occasion to contemplate the tribute we pay to our dead.
I traveled with my dad to Afton Wyoming for the funeral of his sister. She was the oldest child of his siblings. Three other siblings had preceded her in death. I've observed that the longer I'm around, the more people I know who have crossed the river into eternity.
In fact, today I learned that one of my friends from high school died from a heart attack within the last few days. Earlier today, I participated in some on-line indexing which included entering information from death certificates. Most of the names I indexed today were born in the 1890s or early 1900s and died in 1975 in Wisconsin. Only one of them died before age 40. So I've had cause lately to contemplate the fuzzy edge of mortality.
Anyway, at my aunt's service, a nice slide show of her with her children, grandchildren, and great grand children played during the viewing. During the funeral itself, family and friends shared memories and personal experiences about her. A son-in-law and a granddaughter each sang musical numbers. It was all very touching, a fitting tribute.
Why do we do it? Why do we solemnize the passing with ceremony and remembrance? There may be many reasons, and I can't bear the burden of trying to imagine all of them. I can contemplate a few. In most cases, we have an attachment and love for our deceased friends and kin. Our love doesn't end because their physical presence has passed away. A funeral is a final formal expression of love and attachment shared with family, friends, and the deceased--a song of parting with hope that our sentiments can transcend the mortal coil to rise with our loved ones--a symbol of our sorrow with an assertion that we remain bound by the cords of the heart and soul.
We are to some extent what our forebears have made us. We honor the family ties and bonds of friendship. We especially recognize our debt to their struggles and trials. In many cases we have tasted of the sweet because they bit off the bitter. We fortify our remembrance with ceremony to honor their accomplishments, to celebrate their lives and the difficulties they have overcome, to accept the responsibility to transmit our memories of them to our posterity.