Yesterday, I had the good fortune and honor to be in attendance at the viewing for a very good friend's mother, who passed away in her '80s due to cancer, following a very difficult recovery from stroke. The viewing was attended by over 100 people, with friends of the deceased dating back to elementary and high school, who had met for lunch routinely for 65 years.
Now, my friend had done a phenomenal amount of work, because that's just the way he is, in helping his mother in her final years. He's the kind of man who inspires greatness from those around him, because he focuses on individual tasks and gets things done, and never asks anyone to work harder than he does. But on some level, and this was hinted at during the service and confirmed later in personal discussions, life was clearly difficult for them. Pushing a parent through an arduous rehab is never easy, especially when the parent in question has been extremely demanding and combative for much of your life.
But, well, my friend is awesome. Instead of learning the lesson that life is unfair and he's been dealt a losing hand from a mother who can never be pleased, he made sure to always have a personal reason and satisfaction for everything he does... because doing things to please someone else, and hoping to be happy from that service, was such a losing proposition. So this is a guy who works for, well, the joy of a job well done, and he's one of the happier and most useful people you could ever hope to meet. Sometimes, the lessons you learn from a parent aren't the ones they intended to teach, but help much more.
Something else that was pretty curious happened during this. I have two daughters, and the younger of the two insisted on going to the viewing. I was concerned that her motives for doing so weren't solid, that something inappropriate might occur, and that she might be scarred by the experience. (The viewing was, well, a viewing.)
It turned out to be the best thing she could have done for me, and one of the best things that anyone has ever done for me.
When you are watching a friend process the passing of his mother, and you are fortunate enough to have your parent as a strong and wonderful current presence in your life... well, the natural human inclination is to think about what this would be like for you. What I would say in this situation, what elements would be part of the presentation, whether I would be able to keep my composure and speak from notes, what role my siblings would play, how my wife and kids would react, and so on, and so on.
In other words, I was not living in the present, which is exactly the wrong thing to do nearly every day, really, let alone on a day when I am showing my support for someone else. For my friend, whose needs are much more important than mine on this day, and the reason why I'm at the viewing in the first place.
My youngest ended all of that, with simple and polite questions, while never being disruptive or impolite, and by telling me later that she didn't want me to go to this alone.
By the way, she's nine.
Anyway... she got me out of my own head, because that's what kids do.
They make you present to the moment.
Which is, well, the only moment we all have.