Today, I'm attending the funeral of Peter Mykrantz, Sr., a beloved father of a best friend, the now departed spouse of the woman who married Alisa and me, a father figure in my own life.

As Duncan McCurrach observed, Peter Mykrantz, Sr. — "Big Pete" to several, "Big Man" to my own family — was always asking us what we were doing. He just knew in his bones that we were up to something, that some secret plan was hatching — and he wanted to know what it was.

So he would say, in a very genial way, "All right. What's going on? I can tell you all are up to something. It might be no good. What's going on?" We'd smile and shrug. "C'mon, now," he'd say. "You're hatching some sort of plan, now, aren't you? What's The Plan?"

It wasn't that he wanted to kill The Plan. To the contrary, he was smiling, enjoying the idea of us having a plan, especially one with creative texture. He just wanted to know what The Plan was. Perhaps he wanted to join The Plan.

But in the ages old tradition of children not confessing everything to their parents, he never quite found out the outer edges of any one evening's plan.

Well, as I type, Duncan McCurrach is on an airplane on his way to town for the funeral. We'd chatted about his coming — and I'm glad he is.

Looks like The Plan is hatching, once again. If Peter were here, he'd want to know The Plan. And, depending on your theology, perhaps Peter will finally see The Plan unfold: a giant reunion of his friends.

So Many Have Made The Calculation.
When someone I know dies, there is this immediate calculation: should I go to the funeral?

The variables swarm: closeness to the deceased, closeness to the mourners. Am I close enough to go?

In Jewish tradition, the mourners are: spouse, children, parents,
and siblings. The rest of us form the supportive community around them.

There are self-conscious considerations: How will it look if I attend? How will it look if I miss this service?

There are practical, commercial, professional considerations: What will it cost (especially for out-of-town funerals)? Should I cancel my other plans?

I Seem To Attend A Lot Of Funerals.
Partly this is because I live in the town of my birth. So, when someone I once knew dies, it's relatively convenient for me to go.

Also, ever since my father died, I've read the obituaries. At his funeral, I became aware how many people watch the obits and show up or write a note to express their care.

And, because I live in the same town with my mother, I get to accompany her to a few that I might not otherwise attend.

I Have Never Regretted Going To A Funeral.
I'm sorry there had to be a funeral, of course.

But funerals are learning experiences:

  • You can learn about the deceased in a very expressive, loving way. Sometimes, in our passion for praising the dead, the deceased can be described inaccurately. At my father's funeral, a dear, teary-eyed mutual friend said to me, "Your father never said an ill word about anyone." I thought: "You knew my father better than that. He was a loving respectful guy. But for 30 years, his workmates called him Dr. Zing for his ability to fire off insults."
  • You can get some material. You'll hear philosophy, theology, history. Recently, I wrote about the comedy I picked up at Harry Hofheimer's funeral.
  • You can be a member of a community. Too much of our lives are spent in solitary pursuit. At a funeral we stand together for a worthy purpose.
  • You'll be reminded of your own mortality. That's not much fun, but it can be motivating.

And — oh yes, the most important — you can, just by appearing and signing the book, express your support of the mourners. You can help remind them that they are not alone, during a time when they feel so very diminished.

May Peter Mykrantz's name remain a blessing for all of us who knew and loved him.