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Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :

Graduation Day

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
I donít know about you, but going to a funeral and meeting someone you havenít seen in a number of years and sayingÖ ďItís so good to see you..Ē doesnít seem quite right to meÖdoes it to you?

But isnít that what we do? We go to funerals to honor the departed person and folks stand around for hours and share tales and stories about their common experiences. Some laugh, some cry but for the most part it is a moving experience and one we all participate in at some time or another.

Letís say for a moment that you were the departed person, donít you just wish you had the opportunity to be present when a group of your friends, relatives, and other significant members of your life were gathered in one place at one time to focus upon you? They came to this event just because of you.

The only person (and he was fictional) that I can recall was Tom Sawyer, who attended his own funeral, I remember his description of it very well, as I imagine most of you do.

Mark Twain wrote this: ďThere was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral.Ē

Well, of course this would be nice but not very practical. Most of us share experiences in groups. We go to weddings as friends or relatives of the bride or groom. We go to family reunions as members of a family. We go to school reunions as members of one certain class or another. But there arenít too many occasions where you can assemble friends and family from your entire life in one room for the same event.

I did this past Saturday.

Many of you may know that for the past couple of years I have been going back to college. I only did two years and never got a degree when I was going way back in 1967. Thatís over forty one years ago. I decided to go back and finish and graduated last Saturday. My kids all wanted to know why a degree was so important at this stage in my life and I told them it was for them more than for me. I wanted them to be able to say to their kids and grand kids that it was never too late to go to school. If your grandfather can do it at 65, so can you.

So, I graduated and we had a party. As I looked around the room it dawned on me that the only time you get to see this many people from every stage of your life is when they have your funeral.

And you donít get to enjoy it.

Well, I canít begin to tell you how much it meant to me to see friends and family as well as folks I work with all in the same room having a good time and I didnít have to be dead to make this happen. Trust me this was a rare and precious occasion which I will cherish for the rest of my life.

My family was there as well as friends of mine scattered throughout the past forty, fifty and sixty years. All had stories to tell and experiences to share. I loved every minute of it.

Life goes by so fast and the years get away from us before we know it. I detest meeting people at funerals saying stupid inane things like we need to get together more often. Certainly not at funerals. But the truth is, we do need to get together more often. We need laughter and shared experiences, we need conversation, we need dialog and we need hugs and kisses and photos of kids and grandkids, but we need to be alive to do all of these things.

Iím alive and I plan on getting out and seeing some of those folks who came to see me last weekend. We need more memories of people while they are alive, not when they die, by then itís too late.

Tempus fugit.
© Peary Perry
Letters From North America

May 8, 2008 column
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

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