What I Learned at a Funeral on Saturday

The trend we’ve seen the last several years of close family members speaking at at a loved one’s funeral, has always struck me as cruel and unusual punishment. What could be harder? But last Saturday, as the four adult children of a man that my family called President Petersen but that they called Dad, spoke to us, I heard insights that inspired and motivated me. I once again realized that it’s at funerals I often learn the most. Did funerals seem as inspirational before close family members began to speak at them? I’m not sure. I just know that the funeral this Saturday was truly motivational and thought-provoking. Here are some things I hope to remember from our stake president’s funeral:

One of President Petersen’s four children (and I apologize that I can’t remember which child said what) let us know that like the rest of us, their father had faults and was not perfect. His father, he said, didn’t love himself enough, for instance. He also didn’t seem to feel he was demonstrative enough in showing love to others. Then this son  said something that struck me as very comforting.  He said that his father was a testimony that we can each have great impact for good in spite of our weaknesses and imperfections. What a beautiful thought!

Like so many others, I tend to grieve over my weaknesses and faults and dwell on them. The spirit testified that this speaker’s words were true. What matters most is the good we do even if we’re still works in progress.

Another one of President Petersen’s children made the point that we end up doing what we love to do, and our lives end up being what we love. He said that his dad loved to serve and it was evident in his life.  His father also liked to joke and play and had a great sense of humor. It was these things that all those who came in contact with him, but especially his own family members, will remember and always cherish. This man’s life did indeed become what he loved.

Another comment I remember clearly was this: God’s love is not exclusionary. Every one of us is precious in his sight.  These are comforting words in a world which is often exclusionary. Whether we don’t make the team, aren’t welcome in a certain group, or don’t get that job, it is comforting to be reminded that God’s arms are open to each one of us.

Still another of President Petersen’s children reminded us that both birth and death are part of the plan. Just as we are all born into this world, we must all die. We welcome birth but generally do not welcome death.  He spoke of all the prayers of his family members that their father’s life would be spared. He went on to say that we do not always get the miracles we ask for, but that their family received other miracles. He spoke of the miracle of sacred time together. He spoke of the precious words that were exchanged and the letters their dad wrote to each of them. He mentioned increased gratitude and a clear understanding of what is important in this life. He spoke of increased hope. “I saw in my mind’s eye my father being welcomed by those on the other side,” said this speaker.

I’d already chosen the topic of hope for a discussion I needed to lead in Relief Society that next day and the Petersen children’s words at this funeral and then the culminating words of Elder Steven Snow dramatically increased my own personal hope. I’m grateful I attended that funeral where once again my faith and desire to do better were rejuvenated. I’m grateful to President Petersen’s children for the courage they showed. The fact that they were able to express their thoughts and feelings so beautifully at such a difficult time was, in my estimation, one more miracle.

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