When Mike and I moved to Illinois, our sweet friend Marjorie asked us to promise her that we would come back to Ohio and sing at her funeral. That was 7 1/2 years ago. She had a couple scares since that time, but she kept going. Until last Friday, when she took her last breath at the age of 90. So today we sang at her funeral.
Marge was a character. She had been planning her funeral in great detail for several years. She had even given the preacher a list of Scriptures to read. The passages ended up being a total of 7 pages long! He skipped a few and hit the highlights. We went rogue and didn’t sing the song she had requested for us because it was not something within our vocal abilities, so we asked her son, who is one of our closest friends, for a substitute idea. I think she would have been okay with that, even though several of us joked that she would absolutely be the kind of person who would sit up in her casket and shake her finger at us telling her we weren’t doing it right.
She was spunky and vibrant and opinionated. She was sure to let you know if she disagreed with you or thought you were in error, and she always did it with a smile and a soft voice. She loved the Ohio State Buckeyes. She loved politics. She loved her family. She loved Jesus. She loved people. When we were in the midst of being licensed as foster parents and were deciding about adoption and worried about the outcome of the court case that resulted from my accident, she prayed for us and encouraged us and loved us. She was hospitable. She was generous. She chose to see the good in people.
I don’t know how many funerals I’ve attended in my life. This is the 3rd I’ve attended in the last 6 months. I’ve cried through all three of them, although for a different reason each time. Every loss brings a different kind of grief. Last night, we were with Marjorie’s family for a few hours. Her grandson said that this isn’t sad because this is the way you’re supposed to die. She lived a rich and full life. She lived her life well. She died in a perfectly natural way at the end of a long life. It is sad though, and I know her grandson would agree because he still cried today at her funeral. I am sad for our loss while rejoicing for her gain.
Another grandson read tributes written by her four sons and their wives. People have a tendency to embellish their loved ones’ memories after they pass. We idolize their positive attributes and skip over their negative attributes. I dislike attending funerals when people go on and on about how sweet and nice someone was when you knew that the person was known more for cruelty than kindness. Or someone is lauded for being selfless when selfish was more accurate. Or are given credit for things they didn’t actually do while they were alive. I met Marjorie more than 12 years ago. I know a lot of people knew her better than I did, especially since I’ve only seen her a handful of times since we moved to Illinois. But we have spent time with her and her family, especially one of her sons and his wife, who are some of our closest friends even though we are hundreds of miles apart. We knew well over half the people who attended the services today. Mike and I talked afterward about how, in the midst of all the glowing compliments given about Marjorie today, none of it seemed fake or forced. It was genuine because that’s who she was. Dozens of people remarked about how she had ministered to them or encouraged them or mentored them. She didn’t just say she loved people, she actually loved people with her words and actions.
On the drive home, I was thinking about how I want people to be honest about me when I die. At first, I thought that it would be good if people were willing and able to say, “You know, Mary could really be a witch sometimes.” And I hope if that’s how they remember me, that they will be able to say that instead of making me into a myth. But more than that, I hope I can be like Marjorie – that I can be remembered in a positive light because I made a positive difference to people.
I wonder if she had passed away when she was my age – 38 – if she would have been spoken of in the same way as she was today. I kind of doubt it. I mean, I think she was probably mostly the same person then as she was at 90, but I think that some of it is a result of allowing herself to be refined by her experiences. And I realized another reason I’m sad. I’m not sure I’m living my life in the same way.
So as I go to bed tonight, this is my prayer:
May I live a life like Marjorie’s
A life marked by concern for others
A life marked by encouragement
A life marked by faith
A life marked by You