I went to a funeral service today. The sister of one of Eric’s best friends passed, and it was one of those things that was fell in the gray area: not totally obligatory, but would be appreciated. After assessing everything I had to do this week, and realizing how far behind I already am, I was really tempted to tell Eric to be my emissary … to say a prayer for the family from my own home.
But then I thought about Deirder Sullivan’s piece in the collection of NPR’s “This I Believe” essays. She writes:
I believe in always going to the funeral. My father taught me that…. “Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.
In going to the funerals, I’ve come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life’s inevitable, occasional calamity.
Doing good versus doing nothing. Yep. That’s where so much of the battle lies, especially when dealing with a mood disorder and/or chronic illness. It is so tempting to give into the excuses instead of pushing through to the other side, to surrender to the stress and fatigue instead of taking another step toward healing, forgiveness, or health.
So I take it a day at a time, and for the 24 hours ahead of me, I try to do the right thing, the sometimes-inconvenient task, like taking a few hours out of a hectic day to go to a funeral, to a show a friend that he is not alone in his grief, and to remind myself of the insignificance of so many of my worries and expectations.