BETWEEN THE LINES: Funerals make precious memories unfold

The funeral my wife and I attended last Wednesday ended with a hymn with which I was unfamiliar, but was quite appropriate for the occasion. The song’s comforting chorus caused one’s mind to ponder, even as attendees sang, “Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight, precious, sacred scenes unfold."

Funerals bring forth many emotions, but unexpected ones such as those taking place in Aurora, Colo., are especially disturbing. A 51-year-old father takes his two daughters to the much-anticipated Batman movie debut only to lose his life at the hands of a demonic madman. A young female sportscaster leaves her home in San Antonio for a career opportunity, only to have the same assailant shoot her in the head.

As a youngster, I attended few funerals, but the death of my 21-year-old cousin in Vietnam made a vivid impression on me, especially since we were the same age.  Seeing the grieving of his family and bride of six months was almost too much to bear.

Father Time has since accelerated my funeral attendance during the past 15 years, which has seen the passing of both my and my wife’s parents, along with various aunts and uncles.

We all know life is tenuous. The sands are running through the hourglass, and as we age, we become acutely aware of that. I think in the deep recesses of our souls most people want to leave this earthly life having made a difference in the lives of others. We might fall short of Mother Teresa’s example, and wish we could have done more, but we should not be too hard on ourselves because humans are terribly flawed.

Although we live in a highly materialistic, driven world, I have never attended a funeral that placed much emphasis on that. As someone once commented, “There is no U-Haul behind a hearse.”

Instead, what the audience at a funeral hears are memories from friends and loved ones.

When I run across my former students and athletes, I am always amazed their recollections of the past are quite different from mine. While I think of the games and subjects I taught, they recall anecdotal or humorous events. They remember things such as a gallon of milk spilling on the bus on the way to a tennis tournament or the bus running out of gas returning from a basketball game out in the boondocks.

I am sure my wife, children and coworkers will be able to recall a host of humorous incidents that I have left in my wake. Yes, it is the relationships in our lives that form those precious memories, not the trophies, accolades and achievements we accomplished during the journey.

So last week we bid adieu to my brother-in-law’s father, Kent Williams, a good husband, devoted father, doting grandfather and a great coworker. He will be missed, but the precious memories linger on.

Laughlin is a Christian Libertarian. He is an economist, teacher, father, husband and most recently a grandfather. He has written a weekly column for The Tribune for 13 years. He and his wife Gina reside in Meadowlakes. To contact him, email He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.

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