What I learned yesterday

Yesterday was a hard day.

It is never easy to attend a funeral. Ever. When it is just yourself attending, it is one thing. When it is you attending with other people you care deeply about, that is another thing entirely.

Yesterday was the funeral for the daughter of a dear friend in our little Memorial Springs Ward at church. You do not realize how deeply the impact is until you sit down and breathe for a minute and just think. My friend Lourdes Maruri lost her daughter, Chantel Maruri, on Friday morning. She passed away due to a sudden illness. The exact cause is still unknown. At least I do not know what it is. We just know that she got sick and now she is gone. It was fast, it was sudden. It hurts all the same.

She was 16 years old.

She had her entire life ahead of her.

She had touched the lives of so many people in that short life she lived. How beautiful her short life was.

Yesterday, during this funeral, I learned an important lesson…

It is important that we teach our children one thing…especially if you have boys…

It is okay to feel pain. It is okay to cry in public. It is okay to hurt.

My realization was that for many of these children this is the first funeral that they had attended. For my boys, this is the first funeral they have attended in a very long time. The last one they attended was for their Great-Grandma Sansom. Lance was maybe 2 years old or so. We did not pull Lance out of school for this yesterday as we figured he did not know Chantel and he cannot afford to miss anymore school. I use him only as an example to place dates and ages here. That would have made Andrew 11 years old and Kyle 7 years old (approximately).

I wonder how much they truly remember or understand from their first and only experience. Did they pay attention? Did they even care? Were they so profoundly affected by their great-grandmother in their life that they were deeply saddened and moved by the loss of her?

My guess is no, not really. They had only seen her a few times at that point in their lives due to distance and circumstances.

Chantel on the other hand, was there every week at the very least. I would say, at least 2 times per week. We went to church with her. My boys knew her older brother, Gion Maruri, better and call him their friend. Their exposure to her family is much deeper. Andrew was the Maruri family home teacher and visited the family monthly in that capacity. The ties to the family for these boys run much deeper due to closeness, exposure, and circumstances.

For my boys, this is a loss. It is a real loss. It hurts. There is going to be an emptiness there. These are real emotions that they are going to feel. This is real for them. Their friend is gone. Their friend’s sister is gone. Their friend is hurting. Their friend is suffering an indescribable suffering as he goes through the mourning process. We saw that at that funeral yesterday.

For me, I was fine…until I saw my friend…Chantel’s mother…sweet Lourdes follow her daughter’s casket into the chapel. She had two grown men who loved her physically holding her up. They were physically supporting her weight as they walked down the aisles to the front pew in the chapel. Lourdes was too weak to walk that distance. Her face was distraught and the pain in her eyes as she cried in anguish was just too much to bear. I have seen that pain in more than one mother’s face. It hurts my heart to watch. No mother should have to experience that pain. No mother.

I managed to pull it back together after that. I was still sad. Funerals are sad. Pain hurts. Tears help release that pain.

What really started to tear my heart apart again, however, was not what was said…those were sweet memories. What blessed and sweet memories this family will have about their sweet Chantel. Happiness and joy she brought to their lives. What got my tears trickling down my face again, was when I would look over and catch the single tear rolling down the face of my strong and stoic 18 year old son’s face. Or I would look over and see the tears welling in my even stronger shelled 14 year old son’s eyes. That pain is real for them too. They have their own memories of this sweet 16 year old girl. They have their own memories of that family and they knew what that family would be missing from this point forward. That pain was real.

It began to bother me that whenever I would ask the school how to get their absence excused for the day, I was consistently asked “is it for a family member?” It does not matter if the funeral is for a family member or a friend. It does not matter. Like I pointed out earlier, for most of the people in that room yesterday, this may have been their first funeral with any “focused” recollection. We are talking kids mostly 14-18 years old. These are high school aged kids.

Their pain is real regardless. That pain in their heart hurts. That was their friend and to have a friend close enough you can call her your sister is something these kids need!!! That girl touched more lives than her family. That girl touched the lives of many!!! It should not matter…

Andrew decided that he did not care if it was an excused or unexcused absence, he was going anyway. I am proud of him for making that decision. He might have to take his final exams because of it. He consciously made that decision to be there to support the family.

I know that what I saw on my sons’ faces during the funeral yesterday…they will have a lasting understanding of what it is to “mourn with those that mourn.”

They saw their friend, Gion, get up to speak. Gion flew home from his mission in Tacoma, Washington to be with his family for the funeral. They heard Gion’s resonating testimony of the gospel yesterday. They saw their friend’s strong outer, physical body break down and cry. They saw his “natural man” lose its eternal perspective right there on the stage because his heart hurt so much. They saw that pain. They saw him then testify of the atonement and how important that is. Here was their friend who was serving a mission openly admit to a room that he was struggling with the very thing that he was out there preaching and telling people to believe every single day – for that one moment they saw the weakness of his “natural man.” Then the testimony of the things that he knew to be true of the atonement of Christ and of the gospel that followed changed him before their eyes. You could still see his hurt and pain, but you could see that he understood our Heavenly Father’s plan and will.

It has been stated someplace that pain in mourning is a measure of happiness and joy. You cannot have one without the other. All things must have opposition. You cannot know joy without sorrow. Yesterday’s funeral was a reflection of how much joy Chantel brought to her family and how much happiness they experienced – their pain and sorrow was great. She was loved greatly and she loved greatly. How blessed are they to have had that experience.

I am grateful to have met her on this journey through life. I am grateful to know her mother.

I am grateful to be able to see how important it is to teach our children just how important it is to feel that not so great stuff some times. Those tears they experienced yesterday, they were healing tears. They were a part of their testimony in the atonement of Christ. The important thing now is to teach them the joy that comes after the tears. The tears will always come, the important thing is to remember that joy must always come again too.

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