Last week I performed a memorial service for a woman who passed away in her 90s. Her daughter called me from Indiana and arranged the service from a distance. She belonged to a Unity church there and wanted a Unity service for her mother, who had lived in Hawthorne. It was to be a small service with only 10 people, with no eulogy… just some family sharing. She told me her mother had been difficult and had not encouraged family unity.
The service proved to be different than I expected. The daughter who had called me was there with 20 people, and three were her brothers. The four of them had not been together for 20 years! The sharing was very moving and they all did their best to look on the bright side of their mother’s life, even though she had been an apparently harsh disciplinarian. A very beautiful elderly aunt in her 80s sang Amazing Grace and In the Garden, and before the whole service was over, I found myself in tears.
It had to do with a combination of sadness and admiration for them, and gratitude for once again being witness to the honoring of a person who has just passed away. I remember when I first went into ministry, I dreaded memorials because I feared my own emotions at difficult services. But through the years, I have come to appreciate them almost as much as weddings! There is something so poignant about being with people in their moments of grief over the loss of a loved one.
I have performed many memorial services, and each one has been deeply meaningful. Some stand out as more difficult than others…. those for young people or children, especially, whose young age exacerbated the grief for all. And I did one for a classmate of mine from ministerial school…. who had the next church over from mine for a period of time. We grew very close, and it was one service where I was unable to “keep my cool” at all. I cried very openly, to my dismay, since there were a number of other ministers who attended. One told me that my sorrow had caused him to “lose it,” and that he thought it was one of the most authentic services he had been to since I had been able to cry in such a way. Not that I could have stopped it had I wanted to! It’s strange how sometimes we become helpless to control the expression of grief.
Memorial Day is Monday, and that causes us to think of all those who have died protecting our country. And it is a day we remember our ancestors as well. That service was a prelude for me last week. But I have been dreaming about my female ancestors recently, so I intend to take time to honor…. not just the women who have passed, but all of my loved ones who are gone. I know they are sometimes with me, because I feel their presence, and I trust we will meet again. Though I am not planning the reunion anytime soon, the thought of it in a distant future makes me feel joyful!
Take time to remember and celebrate life on this Memorial Day weekend!
Love & blessings,