An Awfully Big Adventure
I was at a funeral the other day.Not the kind full of awkward silences or avoiding eyes contact. Not the kind where they try to shine you on with talks of a better place and it’s all an attempt to celebrate without tears. No. This was the kind that is full of laughter and, tears and storytelling because the life the ended was lived so well it was something to laugh about, to cry that it is over, and to share the stories that she made of the life she was given.
In the past couple of years I have been to as many funerals as weddings. The young join the chapters of their story while the old write the last words to theirs. And both are good.
Frederick Buechner, a man who has written his share of stories and lived them, starts off his final memoir with these words:
“E.M. Forster says that a story is a narrative of events arranged chronologically as in ‘the king died, and then the queen died,’ whereas a plot although also a narrative of events, concentrates more on the because of things as in ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief’…Have I concocted a plot out of what is only a story? Who knows? I can say only that to me life in general, including my life in particular, feels like a plot, and I find that a source both of strength and of fascination.”
I am sure there are those to whom life feels very much like nothing more than a plotless story – events happening in some order with no sense of “because.” The life we were grieving and celebrating the other day was truly full of all kinds of twists and turns – the stuff of plot. As one of her friends of over forty years said, “We are not here because she died. We are here because she lived!” Now that is something I can only hope will be said when I have breathed my last and gone the way of the dodo.
What, then, makes for a life lived? What makes for plot? Is it something we create or is it something that happens to us? Is it merely an unexamined life that sees no plot?