COUNSELOR'S CORNER: Saying goodbye to loved ones: life and death

By Fred Cavaiani

The older we get the more we say goodbye to loved ones. People live and people die. When it is a loved one who dies, it hits home. Lately, I have been attending a lot of funerals and memorial services of good friends. At these gatherings old friends come together. We share, we cry and we laugh. We remember our good friend who has died. We also realize that at any time it could be one of us whom we will be gathering together to remember and celebrate their life and painfully say goodbye.

Funerals remind us of death and of life. We summarize a woman or man's life at a funeral. We see their accomplishments. We remember what they positively left us. In our reminiscing I find myself treasuring my good friends even more.

Last Saturday I was at the Capuchin monastery in Detroit attending a memorial service for Dr. John Kinkel, a sociologist and professor at Wayne State University, and an author. He had been a Capuchin for a number of years also. He was married for 38 years to a wonderful woman and they have two most inspiring children who are both dedicated to helping the poor and downtrodden. John said that what he wanted to be remembered best for was his volunteer tutoring children at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen which he had done for many years. This was a big, gentle man, very brilliant, who found himself teaching little children in the latter years of his life. His wife and two children also have the same big and gentle hearts that John did. As I listened to the talks at this memorial service and reminisced afterwards, I looked around the room and saw many of my close friends there. I felt extremely grateful.

Death tells us all what life is all about. John's daughter said it best that she "knows now that her father will always be with her, unlimited by time or space." There is something about death that puts our lives into perspective. What we have accomplished in human relationships will always live on. Death becomes a way of examining our human relationships in this life and making sure that we make all relationships positive by our actions of compassion and empathy towards all.

I want to be remembered by how well I loved other people and how well and humbly I connected with my God in my life. All relationships remain positive when there is humility and faith in the other person. In fact, any positive relationship with God needs to be based on humility and faith. Any positive relationship with another person will remain positive when humility and faith is involved. I need to be humble enough not to insist on my own viewpoints as the truth and believing enough that there is goodness inside of you that will remain. When humility gets overshadowed by a pompous ego, relationships weaken. When faith becomes replaced with suspicion and criticism, relationships begin to weaken and regress.

We are born. We live. We die. We transition to the next life. None of us remember when we were born. We do not really get too excited about dying. We also do not know much about this transition to the next life. But death will happen to all of us. How I live my life now in positive and loving relationships is the best preparation for my transition to the next life. When my heart is open and wide, love, wisdom and peace can enter.

Life is very short. Eternity is forever. We are born to live forever in joy. This life is the beginning not the end. But to make this beginning a real beginning I absolutely need the humility to learn from others and to love others. When I do this, I prepare myself and those around me to look deeper at the most important values in life. Love and humility allow me to look deeper at everything. It helps me to cut through the rationalizations and hypocrisy that will always be found in any institution or organized religion. Love and humility will help me to discover the meaning of God in a deeper manner and it will help me to appreciate my own Faith and religion or belief system in a deeper manner. Love and humility help me to go deeper in my own religion and not get caught up in the misinterpretations. Love and humility teach me to listen and learn from others and not to listen just to preach to others. John was a dedicated Catholic but was always looking to deepen the sense of care and compassion for everyone. Religion for him was always a way of deepening care and compassion and reaching out to all.

I will be attending more funerals in the coming days. I have many friends who will be dying. Each death will remind me of the importance of humility and faith and love and compassion towards all. Every goodbye to a loved one teaches me so much about life. In my tears I will say goodbye with gratitude from knowing this person and how they have positively affected my life. I want to remember that this also is what I want to leave with people when I transition to the next life and people gather together to remember me. Goodbye John, thanks for your positive influence on my life.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and psychotherapist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan he is also on staff at Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, MI. His column in the Legal News runs every other week. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Wed, Nov 30, 2016