“We are traveling in the footsteps
Of those who’ve gone before
But we’ll all be reunited 
On a new and sunlit shore “

I remember back in my twenties when my social life revolved around weddings. I think I was a bridesmaid 10 times, and there was a swirl of parties, luncheons and rehearsal dinners leading up to each and every wedding. Then there was the actual wedding itself, the reception and the after party. Dresses we swore we loved but never wore again. Bouquets thrown and caught. Tearful toasts and heartfelt hugs. It was a glorious time of new beginnings, fresh starts, true love and happily ever afters.

Flash forward to now, when funerals are the new weddings. Particularly for geezers, watching their gaggle of friends diminish one by one. And for the children of geezers, us sandwich generation kids still raising our own children, these bittersweet gatherings are where we see old friends from our childhood, kiss the wrinkled faces of the friends of our parents and wonder where the time has gone.

But it’s not all sad. In its own way, this time is celebratory too. We’re saying goodbye to the Greatest Generation. We marvel at all they accomplished. We forgive them their shortcomings and realize we can never fill their shoes.

I buried my mother six months ago. It was gut wrenching but also a triumph, because she left on her own terms. She beat the clock, before cancerous tumors choked her or burst through her neck in a gory, gruesome death. She was in unspeakable pain. And my brother, my sister and I all got to tell her how much we loved her as she eased into the next world.

My dearest childhood friend just lost her father, a contemporary of Gmamma’s. And his was a life well lived. Just like Gmamma, GrandBud went out on his own terms. At home. Surrounded by love. He got to say goodbye to his dog. His three daughters embraced him in a circle of devotion and adoration. He greeted friends and family who had gone on before him. They appeared as angels in his room, and he held court all night, happy to see them and ready to be reunited with his beloved wife who died a decade ago. He passed away peacefully in his sleep.

DooDaddy recently told me they talked about Hospice in his discussion group at The Home.

“Isn’t it boring?” one woman wanted to know. “Can I take crafts classes, while I’m waiting to die?”

“It’s supposed to be a medically assisted transition to the next world,” DooDaddy explained, somewhat exasperated. “You’re mostly asleep, with one foot through the Pearly Gates.”

My mother died the day after the Hospice nurse visited. It was much the same for my friend’s father. Because when it’s your time to go, God calls you home. No crafts classes necessary.

My mother’s first cousin, Nona, who was also a childhood friend of GrandBud’s said, “Death is not a pretty thing. But for believers, there’s nothing to fear.”

And Nona is right, of course.

So we celebrated – with a Dixieland Jazz Band – the remarkable life of an exceptional man, who believed every day was a gift. Because funerals are the new weddings. And it’s still about new beginnings, fresh starts and happily ever afters. About being reunited with those who’ve gone before. And it’s glorious.

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When the Saints Go Marching In …