I faced a conundrum. Two people had died and funerals were being held on the same day at almost the same time - close enough that I couldn't attend both fully. One person was the aforementioned "great man" who has been an important part of my family's life. The other person I had never met but was the mother of a sister in my ward. I can't claim that I have known this sister well or for very long - about the same amount of time as we have been in the ward. To most people, the choice would be obvious - go with the one you know. In fact, the information I had received via email was this:
The Viewing for Br. Hibbert will be this Tuesday night from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm at our building. The Memorial services will be Wednesday at 9:00 am also at our building. Bishop didn't tell me, but I know the burial will be at the Mesa Cememtery. They may want just family to attend there - I don't know.
Unfortunately, Patty's mother's funeral will also be on Wednesday at 9:30. There is no way the date can be changed for either. I just wanted to pass that information on too.
Obviously, the expectation was that members of the ward would go to Brother Hibbert's service and send Patty love and support some other way. This just seemed like a dismal expectation and highly unfair to Patty. Now, to be clear, Patty totally understood that members would attend Brother Hibbert's service and was not bitter nor upset by the circumstances. However, I decided to be the better person and show dear Patty that her loss was just as important. Besides, Neil would represent our family at the Hibbert affair so we weren't completely abandoning the ward's expectations.
Not knowing how long it would take me to drive to the church where Sister Wear's service was taking place, I brought along a book and my MP3 player. I arrived a half hour early and was so proud that I'd thought ahead enough to have my own personal amusements on hand. The family had arrived earlier to spend some time together mourning and reminiscing. Feeling somewhat out-of-place, I sought out Patty for direction on where I should wait. I gave her one of those arm-around-the-shoulder half-hugs which indicates I'm there for her - up to a point. I received a full-body embrace from a lady who was grateful for my appearance and took much more from my offering than I had intended.
After some small talk, I extricated myself from the room and went to wait in the chapel. As I entered the chapel, I noticed boxes of tissue on a chair. I passed those by, knowing I am not really a cryer and certainly would not be expected to shed tears for a woman I had never met. I found a spot, not too close to the front or back but where Patty could see me and glean additional support if she needed it. I glanced over the program and settled in to read my book. At the appropriate time, I prepared for the entrance of the procession then settled back into my seat along with the family.
The service was a typical service - family members shared experiences and memories. Musical numbers were performed. The bishop touched on the plan of salvation. Tears were shed and laughter erupted. Somewhere along the way, I was transformed. My laughter joined in, my eyes became wet, my brain kept smacking me for ignoring the boxes of tissue. I came to better understand who Grandma Betty had been and was saddened that I could not have known her better. I truly felt the loss that Patty and her family had experienced and am so grateful that I was allowed to participate in this final memory of Grandma Betty's life.
At the end of the service I sought out Patty once again. This time the hug was a full embrace and I was the one who received far more than what was intended. I truly became a better person.