I attended another funeral for a child today. My friend, and coworker, Alicia, lost her daughter to cancer last weekend. It's been a long, hard battle, and Lily passed beautifully. (If you want, you can read about it here)
When I attended Broxton's funeral last February, I mentioned that I don't have a lot of experience with them. And really, Broxton's and Lilys funerals have really been the only ones I've attended. And they were completely different.
Today would have been Lily's golden birthday, 13 on the 13th, and her family chose to celebrate her life today as if she were still here and we were having a big birthday party...instead of a funeral. We met in a courtyard with a huge tree in the middle, where they hung framed pictures of Lily and wrapped Christmas lights around the trunk. It was beautiful. They spun and twisted in the wind as if they were dancing. Even though it's almost Christmas, it looked like a spring Saturday with flowers and white tables and chairs and yellow table cloths. People were wearing bright colors and I saw more smiles than tears (although, there were plenty of tears also).
There was a man who came up to the front and sang a couple of songs, and before he started the second one, he invited people to get up and dance. I didn't know Lily very well, but I get the impression that this is exactly what she would have done...even if she was the only one. And even though nobody got up and danced, you could hear people singing along.
When the music was over, a girl came up and said some amazingly beautiful words she had written ahead of time, then she invited others to come share their memories of Lily.
Lilly's great grandmother came up with a vase full of flowers and talked about how much Lily loved to suck on the stems of this certain flower because it tasted lemony. And many people came up and talked about Lily's strength and how she got that from her mother, who is also incredibly strong. Then Lily's brother came up and read something he'd written just after Lily had passed away. He remembered his sister fondly and expressed his sadness that she was always sleeping when he'd go visit her at the nursing home (Ryan House). Then he said, "I remember holding your cold hand for a long time after you'd gone," and you could tell that this small thing meant so much to him. And at the end, he said "goodbye." And I cried like crazy.
What was neat was how every person who got up and spoke about Lily said the same things... she loved nature, she loved being outside, she loved life. She never complained, she was always happy, she loved people. She was so strong. I think it was her grandpa who got up and said that as he was looking back at pictures, in over half of them Lily was hugging someone. I wish I had known her better/longer, because she sounds like an amazingly sweet girl.
I think the most amazing thing about Lily's funeral today is that, even though it was sad that life had ended for this little girl way too early, the people there weren't overwhelmingly sad. I got the impression that Lily wouldn't have wanted people to be sad for her, she would have wanted them to celebrate all the love and happiness her life represented...and that's exactly what they did.
You will be greatly missed, Lily Lopez.