Yesterday I conducted a funeral. It is one of the greatest privileges of ministry: the last thing that we can do for the person who has died and, if sensitively and thoughtfully done, a help to those beginning on the long journey of grieving.
Every funeral is, of course, different. However you have known the person, there is always something new to learn about them, a different perspective on the fascinating complexities that make us who we are. For me though, they all have something in common. Every time I hear someone talk about who they have lost (or write it for me to read), unfailingly I hope that they said that to the person while they were still alive to hear it.
We are not always good with words. Embarrassment, or our backgrounds, can so easily hold us back. Yet words of affirmation is one of the five love languages (see https://www.5lovelanguages.com/ ). It is an indispensable way that we sense care from one another, and although it may not be the primary way we receive, or give, love, I believe it is key for all of us. Positive, loving words spoken to us as children are part of what builds us a solid inner core which will serve us well as we grow. Negative words, even careless ones, wound us out of proportion to their number and so we need plenty of loving ones to offset their effect.
The most important words we can speak to each other are those which are not about what we do (though that is important too), but who we are and what we mean to others. People holding up a positive mirror to us shows us things about ourselves we might find difficult to see.
So let’s not wait. Friends, family, those we see in all kinds of contexts, let’s tell them what they mean to us. Let them hear it.