I wrote in December about doing Christmas brilliantly. I hope everyone did and had a great time. Part of that ramble was saying that Christmas is an opportunity to end the year well and start a new one well. Ending something well has become a bit of a theme over the last few weeks for a number of reasons.
The title of this - Happy Endings - may lead some people into a false hope of what is being written about. The phrase can have many meanings, especially if you take it to foreign climes, or unsavoury surroundings. I am sorry if I am disappointing you, but none of the following will cover the type of Happy Ending that some are looking for.
I had the dubious pleasure/privilege/sadness of attending two funerals over the festive period. Neither were expected, as death so often isn't, but both were poignant for their own multitude of reasons. It is strange to think that death and funerals can be positive experiences but I always try to look at them in this way if it is possible. The loss of a loved one is obviously an enormously sad time for so many people but it can also be a time of celebration and thankfulness and a reminder of the importance of life in so many ways.
The two funerals were very different but both carried with them some important lessons in life. One of them was a premature and untimely death of someone aged only 41. He was hugely talented, but had many challenges that he battled for most of his life in the form of illness and adversity which ultimately all contributed to his early demise. The other was for a man of 87 who had lived an extraordinary life devoted to family and community, who defied odds many times and was inspirational to all that met him.
Because both deaths were sudden, there was a different type of atmosphere to the services. Many people were thinking about the "what ifs" of their relationship with the person. Things that hadn't been said or done, or things that had been done that they regret and for which they wanted to make amends but never got the opportunity. For the younger man, there was a sense of frustration that he had more to give in life, even though he had achieved so much in his time, and everyone appreciated the contribution he brought to their lives. For the older man, there was more of a sense of peace, he had enjoyed a long life. It was his time to go but people were wanting to be assured that he was happy and contented until the end, rather than weary and disillusioned. The conclusion was that he was happy, just "ready" to go.
Once the sadness subsided, the aspects of both of these situations that jumped out was those of love, celebration and thankfulness. Two happy endings. There was so much love on display for each of them, firstly through the tears and emotion, then through words that were said for them, and then through the reaction of the attendees once they started to swap stories and anecdotes about the person, and share memories. The two celebrations were very different, and wholly appropriate to the individuals concerned. One was a celebration at a pub that developed into a good party session for the people concerned. Brilliant. The other was an afternoon tea where Rock'n'Roll music was played and we danced in memory of him. Wonderful.
It made me realise that this is how it should be. I suspect many of us don't plan for our death, quite rightly, we have enough to focus on in life and enjoying/coping with that. But if we all know that we are doing the right things and living a good life so that when the time does come we can look back with contentment, and the people around us will be sad in a happy way, then I think we are doing well.
Just one more add-on to this, which is far less important and seems a bit trite to mention it alongside the above. I was delighted to hear that one other thing had happy endings over the festive period. Downton Abbey. I have never watched it, it just isn't my kind of TV, but I know a huge number of people did watch and enjoy it. The reason I was delighted to hear it ended happily was that so many of these TV programmes feel the need to end with death, or hardship, or sadness. But apparently this didn't. Well done Downton. Well done to the writers who didn't chose the easy and lazy way out.
Happy endings everywhere!