Today I attended a beautiful memorial service for my sister’s mother-in-law, affectionately known to most people as Iris.
I first met Iris about 40 years ago, which meant she was in her early 50s at the time.
Obviously, I knew nothing about the first 50 years of Iris’s life. And I really did not get to know her that well over the years, just seeing her on certain holidays and special occasions. She was always nice to me and my family when we did see her, and my sister and her four sons always had good things to say about her.
But at the service today I learned the story of an amazing woman.
She was a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, a postal worker, a farmer, a church volunteer, a cook, a party planner, a hall of fame bowler, an accomplished high school athlete.
Family and friends were the center of her life, and she was not hesitant to let them know. She knew, and was known by, apparently everyone in their small town.
And I knew virtually none of this.
Hearing my nephews talk so affectionately about her and her daughter deliver such a moving overview of her life made me regret not having taken the opportunity to get to know Iris a bit better over the years.
It’s not the first time I’ve been to a funeral and heard stories about the deceased that made me realize how little I really knew about them.
Why does this happen? Why does it take a funeral to really get to know someone? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we knew a little bit about these amazing people – their struggles, their passions, their hobbies, their secrets to a good life before they passed away.
For example, I love bowling, but I never really knew about Iris’s success as a bowler. That would have been an easy one to talk about. Or finding out how she learned to be a farmer, from scratch. Or the story of the square dance she hosted in their brand new barn before it was put to use.
So while it’s too late to talk to Iris about these things, perhaps hearing these stories about her will motivate me to take a more active interest in the lives of the people I know.
Who knows, perhaps there’s a hall of fame bowler or juggler among them…