While driving back from the funeral of a friend’s father this weekend, I thought about how little I’d known about him. By far, the vast majority of the conversations I’ve had with Janice have centered around work as is often the case with colleagues. I did remember that she’d grown up on a farm at Chapman, that they raised Angus and that she came from a large family. I didn’t know, until I read the online obituary, how widely known Andy Schuler was nor how influential he and his father had been in the introduction and development of the breed in the United States. There aren’t that many father and son pairs who both make it to the Walls of Fame in such places as Kansas State University.
There are, I suppose, many families across Kansas—and Kentucky and most every other state—who can trace themselves back seven or eight generations in one place. Families who’ve cultivated the land and livestock, who’ve helped build churches and communities. Families with deep roots, long lives and rich veins of relationships. Even in those families, people move, children anchor their lives in other places, and other generations carry only part of the ancient memories with them.
Most of those memories are not included in the obituaries. A thousand different stories, the real fabric of family, are shared around the tables, in the hallways and along the sidewalks. They are told with sorrow and laughter as siblings and cousins and neighbors dip into the precious healing waters of minutes and memories, years and tears that have been shared together. Even the children learn from these sharings, incidents and events they’d never heard of before. From all this and more—there isn’t time for every story—the loss is honored, the sorrow acknowledged and a hope more precious than words is carried forward.
The hymns, the prayers, the scriptures remind us that we though we grieve, we do not grieve as others grieve. We believe that this burial is more of a planting, a placing of seed into soil for its keeping until a greater rising. And until then, we continue writing our own obituaries in the stories that others will one day share in the time of our passing.
And in those sharings it will not be our accomplishments that matter so much as the memory of our loving and our caring.