I’ve now been to two funerals since burying my son. To say it’s hard to do, is an understatement. Walking into a sanctuary, which usually brings peace, invokes feelings of anxiety and trauma. I extricate myself mentally from the service. I am there but I am not really “there.” Today, as we mourned the passing of my friend’s father, I listened. I listened to words from the priest. I listened to the heartfelt writings of his grandchildren. There was one common theme: He was PRESENT. He showed up.
There are multiple ways we meet our friends. I’ve found that most of my friends are long-time, since grade school. Others I met in high school and college. Then, came the kids. I met neighbors and parents from sports. By the time my kids were in junior high school, I thought I had my lifelong friends. In March of 2014, Jacob decided to explore private school. There I met my friend, Dan.
We quickly became friends. How life juxtaposed two more opposite people. I’m an alcoholic (in recovery) while he barely drinks. I’m short and overweight, he’s tall and slender. I’m a Jew. He’s a Catholic. He lives on the west side of Cleveland in the most vanilla city. I am an east sider swimming in cohesive diversity. His parents have been married for 58 years and mine divorced in 1989. Dan and I share two important common actions; We are present, and we show Up.
Being present is an important action. As I listened to Dan’s father’s homily today, it was clear where Dan learned his ability to be present. His dad was there for his friends and family. He went to events. He sat down and genuinely listened to people. He supported and cheered for his kids and grandkids, without judgement. While I am sure he rooted for a win, it didn’t matter. As Parkinson’s took control of his body, his overt support was limited. I was with him a couple of years ago as we watched a wresting match. He didn’t yell. He rarely even talked. None of this was important to him. He wanted to be there, to be present. He was.
Being present and showing up is a gift. It’s a learned gift. While not innate, it seems like it with my friend. We’ve been friends for 8 years and have both lost close family members. When Jacob was diagnosed with cancer, I made a four-hour drive to see him. The next morning, with my brain in a fog, I realized my wallet was left in a Columbus hotel room. I called Dan. He jumped in a car and brought me my wallet. I have a lot of great friends. I don’t know how many people would drop what they are doing and show up. I challenge myself too. Would I do that? Selfishly, before Jacob became sick, I don’t think I would.
My father and Dan’s dad (our moms as well) were alike in that way. They never missed anything. My dad showed up. Social media gives these men no credit. They didn’t take selfies. They didn’t exercise self-promotion. Dan’s dad taught him the valuable lesson of being there. This is a lesson for us all to understand its importance.
I didn’t want to go to the funeral today. I didn’t want to go to a funeral home last night to see the family. Funerals and funeral homes dig up feelings that are hard to overcome. I did it because it’s not about me. Without me, the funeral still would have commenced and concluded. Without me, the family would still have support. I know this. I learned a valuable lesson from Dan. Dan has taught me to be there. And, while I am there, BE THERE! His dad taught him this through his actions. Yes, it appears to be innate in Dan. It’s innate because of repetition. Thanks Mr. Mitchell and to my dad for lighting our way.
If you struggle with being present, here’s a tip. Just be there. The rest will handle itself.