Funerals are for the living too | Ask Erin

Erin Jennings - Herald
Erin Jennings
— image credit: Herald

Funerals always make me cry. Not the dainty cry of a polished actor who elegantly lets a tear fall from the corner of her eye and gently roll down her cheek.

Nope. For me it’s always a full-blown sob fest — the type of crying where I have to dig my thumbnail into the palm of my hand to prevent loud sobs from escaping.

It doesn’t matter how well I knew the person, I always need a large supply of tissues to get through the service.

Suffice it to say, funerals don’t top my choice of activity. (Are they for anyone? Apparently so, for when I asked my brother, he said he often enjoys funerals more than weddings.)

So when a close friend’s sister died, my husband suggested we attend the funeral.

“I can’t,” I replied. And I hastily constructed a laundry list of reasons why I couldn’t.

“But don’t you think we should?” he responded.

“I only met her once, years ago. It would be weird to be there,” I claimed.

“We aren’t going for her,” he gently reminded me.

And that’s when it hit me. Funerals are for the living. All of my life, I’ve thought of them as ceremonies for the deceased.

I somehow missed the memo that it’s OK — and even thoughtful — to attend a funeral of a person that you didn’t know, in order to show support for those grieving.

So we went.

When the service opened with “Amazing Grace,” I opened my purse and dug out my tissues. For the next hour I cried. Anyone who witnessed me bawling must have thought I was a long-time friend, struggling with the loss.

Little did they know, I wouldn’t have known Lauren if I bumped into her at the grocery store.

But what I learned about her throughout the service made me wish I knew her.

And while I pride myself as being the member of our family who always tries to do the right thing, if it hadn’t been for the nudging of my husband, I wouldn’t have gone.

Even though it took every ounce of strength I had to get through the final song, “I’ll Fly Away,” I’m so glad I went. Not only would I have missed out on learning about a remarkable woman, I wouldn’t have been there for my friend.

So lesson learned. While a grieving friend always appreciates hugs and kind words, sometimes the best way to show support is just by being there. Even if you are a weepy mess.

— Ask Erin is a feature of Kitsap Week. Have a question? Write Ask Erin, Kitsap Week, P.O. Box 278, Poulsbo 98370 or e-mail


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