Friday, March 30, 2012

In Life, in Death...

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God
Yesterday our family was on the road early to get to Hamilton for the 11:00 am funeral of our brother-in-law, John. His sudden death a week ago rocked the extended family and Ruth and were grateful that our three adult children and daughter-in-law figured out their busy schedules to attend the service and be part of the family gathering. It was a rare occasion when all six of the siblings from one side of Ruth's family could gather from as far away as Winnipeg.
More than two hundred people were in attendance, a testimony to the love and respect for John and his wife and children. I had a nominal role reading scripture and the solemn privilege of being a pallbearer, as was our son Isaac. Ruth excelled giving a family tribute, speaking on behalf of her sister Martha and niece Rachel.
What struck me as a congregant was the level of planning, the remarkable gifts of the various participants and the hopeful affirmation of abundant and eternal life in Christ. Martha is a musician, so an number of long-time friends provided leadership, including some soul-stirring congregational singing. Needless to say, John's immediate family is devastated but they were bouyed by what happened in the service.
It brought to mind a recent service I conducted where the deceased was certainly loved, but the congregation just didn't seem to get what was unfolding. People arrived late, came and went, didn't sing the hymn chosen by the lovely elderly woman we were supposedly honouring. It was rather disheartening even though we did our best to bring dignity to the occasion.
It is so important for all of us to consider what we hope for in these services of departure, both in terms of the personal nature of the content and the faith we want to affirm.


IanD said...

Sorry to hear about this, but glad that the service went so well for your family.

Tough stuff to be sure.

Laura said...

Your "kids'" presence will have meant so much to their cousins and aunt. Amidst early career demands, exams, distance wonderful that they made it happen.

Was reminded of a drive along the 401 on a dark,rainy night this winter, to attend a visitation of a young dad who had died, his brother a new neighbour of ours. My travelling companion decided not to go for varying reasons, and I wondered given the night and my distant connection whether I should go. My Mom's words of wisdom on funerals returned to me. "Often you will regret not going, but you will never regret going." She is right, I believe.

Also thought of a funeral this winter of a retired, United Church minister, who had become the unoffocial greeter at my Mom's carehome. It was the same day as the Whitney Houston extravaganza, but somehow reflection on Woody's quiet, faithful life captured the peace of "being welcomed home" more, in a little old church, surrounded by faith-filled friends and family than the gospel telethon in New York.