Last week I went to the funeral of the husband of a friend of mine. He had died, in his 80s, after being unwell for most of the past few years. I didn't know him well, had met him a few times, but my friend has been an influential and inspirational person in my life since we moved to Victoria 11 years ago. I first met her at a music session for kids that she was running, and we went to that session on and off for about 5 years. She provided childcare (in the next room so the kids could still come to us) at a mother's group we went to for a couple of years, and my kids loved being with her. We've worked on various children's programs and events together, including starting up a playground (which is still running even though both of us have moved on to other things). We see her regularly at the op shop where she volunteers, and down the street at other events around town, and she always has time to stop and chat to me and the kids, and I love listening to her wisdom and being soothed by her kindness. Over the years I've also come to know several of her children and/or their partners (who are all around my age) and some of her grandkids.
So I went to her husband's funeral to support my friend and her family. It was the most beautiful funeral I've been to, very emotional and personal and loving. The minister knew the family well so all her prayers and blessings were very personal. She told a wonderful story to the children that helped to explain what death and the afterlife might be like (about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly and the confusion he felt when he was in the cocoon stage). All of my friend's 4 children spoke about their dad, and she spoke as well. It was really lovely to hear from the entire family and their own experiences and memories, rather than just from one person.
The theme that came through from everyone who spoke was that this man was loving and kind, practical and a hard worker, and was always willing to help someone when they needed it. All the kids talked about times when they'd needed help (often when they'd made a mistake) and their dad readily did what was asked. Other people I talked to afterwards and since also told me about times when he helped with events or parties or anything that was happening, and he was always available to do what needed to be done.
It really struck me how much that meant to everyone who spoke - that he was always there when needed. It felt like such a beautiful, wonderful thing to be remembered for. Our society is so full of messages along the lines of 'let them work it out for themselves', 'I'm not here just to serve you', 'I don't have time to do that for you' etc - we seem to be encouraged to put ourselves first and to 'help' our kids learn to do things for themselves. I've been to funerals of people who parented like that and while their children were sad and missing them, the way they remembered their parents wasn't with the deep love and appreciation and gratefulness I experienced last week.
It was a great reminder that how we interact with our kids and with our partner and our friends and family, every day, is how we will be remembered. I definitely want my kids to look back on their childhood, teenage years, adult years and know that Tony and I were always there for them, would always be willing to help, no matter what the situation was. And I'm talking about genuine, willing help too, not 'oh all right, I'll do it...' type help. I mean 'Yes, I am happy to do that for you' - even if that is not stated, I know that the energy and thoughts behind helping someone really influences how the receiver experiences the help. I know I don't enjoy it when someone begrudgingly helps me out, I would much prefer them to say 'no, sorry I can't right now' than to help grumpily. And I'm not saying that we should all do everything our children ask us, immediately and happily - but it doesn't hurt to do as much as we can, honestly and lovingly and willingly. Every little interaction helps build our child's world - we aren't going to get them all right, but the interactions are positive as often as possible, then they will build a positive view of the world and of our relationship with them.
We're often told that if we do too much for our kids they will end up spoilt and ungrateful. Last week I saw the results of a lifetime of being willing to help and support people whenever they needed it, and the children of that man grew up to be compassionate, loving adults, full of gratitude and seeing abundance all through their lives. That is what I want for my children and I am thankful for this family for reminding me that living a compassionate, supportive, loving life will help our children to grow up the same way.