So about a week and a half ago, I got a phone call out of the blue that my great-aunt had died. It was completely unexpected and we were all in shock. I feel blessed to be able to say that I was actually sad and felt the loss of my great-aunt. I have 4, and we are all close. I don’t think many people can say that. Saturday was the service, Tim and I packed up our Tribe and headed to Tucson to join the rest of my family. As I sat through the service, we heard from many family members about the life and impact of my Aunt Marilee. How incredibly smart, talented and resourceful she was. Which I know everyone says that about their relatives at funerals, but she played like 19 instruments. So yeah, my great-aunt is way cooler than yyours. It was so beautiful to see her through so many different perspectives. The whole family then made pilgrimage to her favorite restaurant, “Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse” in Marana, where we continued talking about her: swapping stories, tears, and belly laughs.
For better or for worse (but usually for better) my family is very close. Sometimes it’s a fine line between close and invasive, but usually we all get on well together, and as our matriarchs have said in so many words over the years, “We are Crawfords, and we sing.” And that we do. One of our traditions is to “sing Grace” instead of “say Grace” before a meal. We gather and someone starts us off in The Doxology. We always begin the first line, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in unison. Then by the next line, “Praise him all creatures here below,” we have broken off into 6 part harmony. I don’t say this lightly, we sound incredible. I will have to record this sometime for you to hear. By the time we reach the end, “Amen.” half of us are beaming through tears as we all look around at each other. Someone always says, “Now THAT was GOOD!” and then we eat.
At some point during the evening, one of my cousins, Susie (whose mother was my Aunt Marilee) and I were having a conversation, when she made a wonderful point- “How come we don’t do this when the person is still alive? Why do we have to wait until their gone to gather and share and remember?” It’s tradition, I suppose. But she made an excellent point.
We have to start doing this more, to affirm and cherish those we love, before they have moved on. I always like to think that those who have passed can still hear and watch over us. I always wonder how surprised they are at the funeral hearing all the nice things people never said about them while they were still alive. Why does it take waiting until someone is on their very last breath, or until they’ve passed, to say these things? We should be saying them now. I am guilty of this just as much as anyone else. I never told my Aunt all the things I admired about her. I hope she felt as loved and appreciated as she was.
So then, why don’t we actually just come out and say these things? I think it’s because it requires a certain vulnerability on our part, we may cry, we are afraid of looking silly. I think another reason is because we often spend way more time looking at all the positive attributes of a person after they die. While they’re alive, we spend more time looking for ways to criticize them. That would be cruel to do after they die, so we do the opposite. But what if we left out the criticism all together and only looked at their strengths while they were still with us. What if reflections of other people wasn’t saved for the funeral. Can you imagine the life we would breathe into our marriages? If instead of saying things like, “Why can’t you just pick up your dirty underwear and put it IN the basket?” or “Well, you never have the laundry done on time anyway.” What if instead we found ways to affirm them even when we were frustrated.
Child psychologists have found that positive reinforcement carries more weight than does negative, when you’re trying to raise them. Focusing on what they ARE doing right, instead of where they mess up. But why confine this to our parenting? Aren’t we all children at heart? Don’t we all still need and crave affirmation and love? Whether we want to admit it or not, we do. If we are going to love our spouse unconditionally, it’s going to be a much smoother road when you’re able to shift your focus from everything that is wrong with your person, to all that is right.