Funerals and Doing the Right Thing

A few years ago I offered a similar article, and due to multiple client requests, I am reposting it. I give credit to this topic to Deirdre Sullivan, who offered this powerful essay in the book “This I Believe,” which I highly recommend. She tells the story about how her father had once told her she had to go to a funeral she did not want to attend. He said she needed to do this to honor the family of the deceased. He said it was the “right thing to do.” Thus going to the funeral became her mantra for always doing the right thing.

These things may be visiting a sick colleague in the hospital instead of meeting friends at happy hour, or putting in a volunteer shift when you would rather be outside enjoying the fall weather, or even standing up for a friend when the other friends in the group want to speak ill of them or exclude them. These are often small decisions which test our scruples and levels of loyalty; yet, they are also things which can mean the world to the other person.

I recently have experienced being the “other person” when individuals elected not to do the right thing. It stung and ultimately shifted the human dynamics forever. In Deirdre’s story, she suggests this is often the case. Most of our lives are not so dramatic that we are evaluating grand heroic gestures; rather, they are made up of small moments where “doing good” is simply doing the right thing, versus doing nothing. So, when it is often tempting to not do the right thing and follow the pack – while our conscious is bothering us to do the right thing – remember the mantra: “Always go the funeral.” The deceased person may not know you are there, yet you and the family will.

5 responses to “Funerals and Doing the Right Thing

  1. ooooh, this hit to close to home! May I respectfully disagree about funerals and the right thing. As I watch the cursor go blink blink blink, I wonder if I should even write this on the screen. Is it justification I am looking for or did I do the right thing for “me”. Maybe it would be a cleansing of my soul — I did not go to my mother’s funeral. It was a “hard” choice — maybe not the “right choice”. but a choice none the less. There were a million reasons I should have gone — but only one reason I did not go — I did not want to share the saddest day of my life with the circle. My pain — was my pain. But I chose not to go. This choice has caused waves in my family — but it was my choice.

    NOW as far as doing the right thing — I guess I did the left thing. I have to live with the consequences — and I am at peace with the choice.

    When doing something – when doing the right thing — if your heart is not full of love and energy about it — it can be doing the wrong thing. SO to me THE RIGHT THING is a choice made from the heart!

  2. I have a lot of personal pain in my life now, and the outreach of my professional fiends has meant the world to me and my husband. It has been a huge example of the power of being present to others in difficulty. I will seek to always “go the the funeral” for others.

  3. Wow. This really has prompted some powerful thoughts/comments. It is hard to “go to the funeral” sometimes. However, as Angela pointed out above – if you do or don’t, if it is done from the heart and the intent is pure, you are doing the right thing.

    The flip side is pertinent to what Jane has mentioned – receiving the support of friends. And again, the intent is pure.

    The bottom line is – do what your HEART and mind direct you to do, even if it involves sacrifice. Our household motto is – “if you’re not proud to tell your mother about it – it’s not the right thing”.

    We must all live by our own integrity and go the extra mile. Thank you Kristin, for bringing up such a timely and timeless topic.

  4. Attending funerals: I go to honor the life of the person, to say goodby, to thank my God for my friend, and ask that he keep my friend close, and for closure.

  5. My mother will not be around much longer, and I’m already thinking about whether I will go to her funeral. I feel like I choose to honor her while she’s alive by taking care of her and meeting all her needs. We have a very close bond. I doubt my family will understand, but I am planning not to go. I don’t want to remember a funeral the rest of my life — I want to remember her as vibrant and alive.

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