Today is October 13th 2017.
It was 15 years ago (on the 15th) that my Grandmother passed away.
2002 was a hard year for me. I remember the pain a lot; but the fact that I am writing this means, I made it through.
I also remember the joy.
This week for my job I have presided in two funerals. As a Pastor part of my job is to preside over funerals. I have done funerals for families that I know really well and I have done funerals for families I have never met before. I have done funerals for families who are well off and have a lot of “bells and whistles” (for lack of a better term) and I’ve done funerals where it is just basic nothing too fancy. I have done funerals for families who have been raised in the church and are highly faithful people. I have done funerals where the family has never stepped foot in a church. I have done funerals for people who fill the funeral home to show their love for the departed. I have done funerals where only 2 or 3 people have gathered.
There are a lot of things I have learned from this wide assortment of funeral experiences. Here are my top 3:
- The days leading up to a loved ones death are Holy. They have a reverence about them. I think it is because when we know someone we love is about to die soon we stop everything we’re doing and go be with that person. We stop going to work, we stop going to school, our daily routines stop. When we’re bedside next to our loved one, or sitting in the room with family we tend to go deep within ourselves to remember that loved one and how that person loved us. We spend time remembering. Remembering requires us to go deep within ourselves. Deep, where those hidden things lie, deep where our secrets are safe. We think about the end of life and what comes next, heaven or not. It happens to every family, regardless of their faith. This is Holy. It’s Holy because we become vulnerable, raw, and exposed. This is the place where God resides. I say this because when I think about the times I’ve felt the closeness of God they are the times that involve some level of vulnerability. Society would like us to think that vulnerability is weak. It isn’t weak. Vulnerability is being real with ourselves and our creator. This time is Holy; don’t waste it worrying about what comes next, drink it in with all the strength and vigor you can. As a clergy person I feel so very awed and humbled when I am invited to share these holy moments with families.
- Death is something all people experience. It doesn’t matter who you are or what walk of life you come from. Everyone experiences death. Death is a part of living. death is a piece of this life that God has given us. It is hard. It is messy. It can be scary. It can be easy. It is something no one can avoid. Even God himself experienced death. If someone had the power to offer me a long life without ending I’m not sure I would take it. I cannot imagine life without death. I love my life and, life in general, and I will cling to it as long as I possibly can. Life without death isn’t really life. It’s like day without night. What is the light worth without the darkness? What is the point of Resurrection without death?
- I believe in the Resurrection; this gives me hope and so much Joy! During all of the funerals that I have presided over I say these words found in the UM Book of Worship: “May God grant us grace, that in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow hope, and in death resurrection”. As Christians we believe that Christ rose again– this is the celebration of Easter. It is only natural then to believe that we will be resurrected as Christ was. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that our human bodies will be resurrected and we will live forever with Christ in our Spiritual bodies. This gives me hope, this gives us all hope. If we spend too much time thinking about being dead and resurrected it might get a little creepy; especially if you’re like me who needs allll the details to understand something fully. So I try to think of this scripture as a way to remember when we die it’s just a piece of us dying; that we will go on living with Christ. The scripture that really gives me comfort is John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the world. This means that all the sadness, grief, pain, and meh that we experience in our daily lives none of it can over take us. Nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ that is in Jesus. Nothing!
When a loved one dies we are left with the grief process. It is a process and even after serving the last 12 years in some form of ministry there are days, like today, when I grieve my grandma. Grief is something that is hard to make tangible and at the same time can grab us and take hold of us so tightly that it’s hard to breath. I find a lot of hope in this quote from on of my favorite authors:
Grief is love’s souvenir.
I have a lot of souvenirs. I am okay with this.
The death, funeral, and grief part of my job is one that I do not shy away from. We all have things about our jobs we do not like, this isn’t one of them.
I hope this post has helped you in some way.
I will leave you with one more thought. Sometimes when grief grabs me I sing the song “It is well with my soul” over and over and over. For me this is like John Wesley’s faith encounter with Peter Bohler where Peter encourages Wesley by telling him to “preaching faith until you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith”
I sing it is well with my soul, over and over and over so I believe that it truly is well with my soul. This usually works really well.
If you find yourself in a place where grief has grabbed you please know that you are never alone.
Peace and Love to you all
~Rev. Single Mom