On Saturday I had to go to a funeral. I can't think of how any funeral could be easy, but this one especially hard. It was for a classmate of my son. The boy was 26 years old.
The funeral turned out to be quite large though the family hadn't planned it that way. The boy had lived in another part of Japan. He hadn't been in our city for over 10 years. He had been one of the students that has a hard time adapting to formal education and hadn't really attended school since Jr. high. He had made his own circle of friends in the new city but his parents had felt that there were few people who remembered him in this area.
Untrue. Though I hadn't seen the boy since kindergarten, I had occasional contact with his mother, I had heard of his struggles to find his place in school life. When I heard of his death, I brought out the photo albums from our happy kindergarten years and could smile at a picture of Takumi grinning away and this classmate flashing a peace sign at the camera. There he was as I remembered him, the biggest boy in the class, the one who liked animals and who smiled shyly.
Many people must have remembered him the same way... Many mothers from the kindergarten years attended the funeral, many classmates of his sisters, many of his father's colleagues from work, and many, many, many of his mother's friends from the numerous activities she is a part of. And what is a funeral anyway but an expression of love and concern for the family that remains. A desire to share the grief, to show support, to let the family know their loved one will be remembered.
The mourners overflowed into the lobby area and it took quite a long time for everyone to offer flowers at the "altar". This was a non-religious ceremony so no priests or chanting or prayers... I wondered if I would have felt comforted...
I think the family must have been surprised and grateful that so many people came to be with them at their last good-byes.