‘It’s livin’ that’s hard’


Charles McIntyre, left, greets family members at his wife, Debra’s viewing, Sept. 1, 2014 in Layton, Utah.

“Dying is easy. It’s livin’ that’s hard…” ~ The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

I’m in Salt Lake City, Utah this week visiting my extended family because we lost a couple important family members last week. We’re all attending viewings and funerals, and that is where I’ve been watching my family members (old and new) associate with each other. I feel like something of a stranger among my people, because I moved away a long time ago. In fact, the time I’ve been gone is longer than the amount of time I lived here as a child.

Last night, I’m watching my uncle do the impossible job of greeting hundreds of people while standing next to his wife’s coffin. There were so many tears as he shook hands, smiled, hugged and listened to sympathetic words. This scene is unfolding in front of me, and the lyrics of one of my favorite songs is stuck on reply in my head. In “Lonely Tonight”, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash sing, “Dying is easy. It’s livin’ that’s hard,” and I think truer words have never been written because funerals really aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living. We use each other’s tears as medicine, and we somehow get through.


My sister-in-law, Julie Hood greets one of the many new family members on Monday afternoon.

There’s other stuff too. Watching little kids at funerals is kinda funny. They openly don’t know or care about the proceedings. They just want to get out of their church clothes and play. Watching people like my sister-in-law connect and play with those kids might be the best part of all this. Seeing it makes me hopeful about the future, and we could all use a little bit of that right now.

Eventually, I got in the viewing line last night. Approaching my uncle and the heavy emotion pooled around my aunt’s casket was harder than I expected, and that song played louder and louder in my head with every step. Looking into my uncle’s crying eyes was almost too much. My memory flashed back, as we hugged, to the first time I stood near him in a big fancy room. It was the day he married my Aunt Debra all those years ago when I was a child who just wanted to get out of my church clothes and go play with my cousins.

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