Yesterday I attended the funeral of my sister-in-law’s father. The main theme of the service was “stories.” There was a moment in the service for family and friends to share stories of him. One of the interesting aspects was the range of people who shared a story about him. From a granddaughter whose story was from the time she was eight (I think she is 10 now), to a childhood friend, who would be in their seventies, that had been a there during the during the last days, but more importantly been a friend for all those years.
Funerals always force us to consider our own mortality. To wonder who would show up, who would not. To consider what dreams we have accomplished and which ones we let slide. With such a strong theme of stories during the service I started to remember different moments in my life and all the different people that I shared those stories with. Some of them are still a part of my daily life; others have faded away. Only because life and time have a way of moving people away from us. I wondered who would come to my funeral, what story they might share because most of the stories really wouldn’t make much sense to anyone else besides us, the characters in the story. Only my best friend, Scott, would get the pop can theory story or the chocolate milk bombs. Only family will understand the power of a waffle iron. My family would only appreciate the Lemurs at the zoo story, or the attack of the goats. My wife is the only one who smiles when I mention the dollar menu at Wendy’s.
Our stories are important for a number of reasons. The first is because the stories make connections for us to people, places, and times. Holden, from Catcher in the Rye, might reveal this the best when he explains that he couldn’t leave Percy Prep until he could remember a story so he could say goodbye.
“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it.”
Holden remembers an evening where he and some other boys stayed out throwing a football until it was so dark they couldn’t see the ball. Knowing that those boys might someday remember the same story gave Holden a sense that he mattered, that someone would remember him. That he was there. Something all of us strive for.
The second reason stories matter is because they developed depth to our lives. From laughing at the dinner table to packing a minivan with six kids to stay at a hotel in South Dakota, a life that has stories to tell is a life that is lived. That includes the stories of our challenges, of the moments when we failed. Stories like that are just as important for building connections with people and developing a life that is rich with experiences.
No matter who shows up to my funeral, I hope reading this post today spurred a story that we shared. But more importantly, I hope I spurred a desire to create even more stories… because at some moment in time, all of our stories will have an ending.