Yesterday, I went to my friend John's dad's funeral. Yes, I've reached the part of my life where I'm starting to attend the funerals of my friends, and in some ways I'm glad I've already been through my mother's death and know exactly how important friends' support is.
These funerals can be very conflicting, however, especially with my high school relationships. Above all, we were (and are still), loyal to each other. And in high school — when you stand by your friends — you are often therefore standing against their parents, as you all grow and mature and test limits together. (Perhaps even more so with divorced families).
Now at some point, we generally all get past that. Our identities are formed by what we do ourselves, rather than how we stand in contrast to our families. We establish a grown-up relationship with our parents. But this is an intensely personal, individual experience, and usually even our closest friends are not involved.
And then, by this point of our lives, our parents age, and even start to pass on. And you sit in a pew in a church that you did not even know your friend's family attended. You gather together with people of all ages. You listen to people sharing memories, and are surprised about all the things you did not know about that person's life. And suddenly your relationship with your friend deepens, even beyond that early loyalty, to one that understands and honors that friend in a new and more complex way.
And that is why you go to friends' parents funerals.
(and by the way, I love you, John.)