I haven't had to attend many funerals, but even so, I've come to understand the benefit a funeral gives. The gathering of loved ones, the gentle serenity of the resting place, the party afterward with the memories to share of the departed's long life.
Until today, I have never attended the funeral of someone who died before his time - and now I've learned it isn't the same thing at all. There's no comfort in it. There is nothing good in seeing a young person go into the ground.
There is nothing good in watching a father grieve the loss of his child. There is nothing good in watching tears on the cheeks of high school drum corpsmen as they drum the coffin to the grave. There is nothing good in listening to a brother mourn the lost good times with his younger brother. There is nothing good in watching a young man sob and throw a guitar pic into the grave before he spills a shovel of soil onto his best friend's coffin. There is nothing good in watching teenage girls sit on the curb and weep.
I thought Z's funeral would be closure and comfort. It wasn't.
When I embraced Z's mother, I made the stupid mistake of asking "How are you doing?" She said, "That's not a good question right now."
On this same hillside, our friend Wolfgang, after some 90 years of life, rests a hundred yards or so away from where Z is tonight. I remember the afternoon we saw him laid there. It was almost exactly a year ago, but it was sunnier than today, and not as cold, and the sky was bright.
Wolfgang endured much in his life, and suffered losses, but even later in his life when we got to know him, he was adventurous, intellectually curious and passionate about issues.
It's no comfort to Z's family today, but I think maybe as time goes by, Wolfgang and Z might enjoy each other's company on that hillside.
I surely hope so.