I went to a funeral yesterday. There were a lot of people there; the church was full, the back room was full, there were people out the front spilling onto the footpath and into the road.
For an hour, I sat and listened to reminiscences of a person’s life. At the end of the funeral we watched as the SES escorted the hearse away. It was poignant and a little spectacular.
During the two hours following the funeral I drank tea and chatted with people.
Every person had a different story to tell and it struck me that you can never really know a person. I knew him as part of my family. I had a personal vision of the man he was. Because I didn’t live in the town, and only socialised at family functions, I didn’t see any other aspect of him.
It struck me as I listened to the eulogy, the songs written for him, the pictures displayed, and watched the tears stream down the faces of burly emergency services workers, I realised there was a whole side I’d never seen or imagined. I’d been on the periphery. I’d known of his involvement in various organisations, but hadn’t translated that knowledge into the way his life impacted on other people in town.
It wasn’t just me who was missing pieces of his life. Everyone I spoke to shared one observation of his life. Each person’s story showed they knew a slightly different person. It wasn’t until I walked away hours later that all those stories coalesced in my head and I realised the person I knew wasn’t a lot like the person other people knew, and they didn’t know the person I knew.
Intellectually, I’ve known this characteristic of human nature existed for most of my adult life, but I’ve never before seen such stark contrasts between stories of someone’s life. It’s not as if he presented totally different personalities wherever he went. It was more like the different things he did in different situations required different aspects of his personality to come to the fore.
I’ve begun thinking about how other people are viewed by the various people in their lives. I’m going to sit for a while now and allow all these epiphanies from yesterday percolate in my brain.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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