Saturday, March 02, 2013

O Death Where is Thy Sting?

Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”[

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

During nearly a decade at St. Paul's I have presided at many funerals and memorial services. Some have been tiny. Several have packed the church or chapel. In certain instances the tension between family members has been palpable, while in others the same could be said for the love. Unfortunately some of the deceased have been despised by those left behind. Others left such an indelibly positive mark on loved ones that the survivors wonder how they will be able to carry on without them. Such is life.

This week I presided at two services, one for a woman who died at age 81 after years living with chronic illness of every kind, including Alzheimer's. Fortunately she continued to know her family and her sense of humour was intact. The service was in a funeral chapel with a modest group on hand.  I had met Gladys but didn't know her. Still, I was aware of how much she was loved and influenced her family and friends and the two tributes were lovely.

The second service is today and it will be a St. Paul's funeral because Bill, aged 80, was a church guy. I had many conversations with Bill and he was what used to be called a gentleman, a term which seems to have disappeared from our vocabulary. He looked dignified and he acted with dignity and integrity. Over the years he developed a strong sense of community responsibility, and a conviction that if you have been blessed you should bless others. He too loved his family immensely and was devoted to his wife, who has Alzheimer's,

Is conducting two services in a couple of days a strain? Oh ya, especially with everything else on my plate this hectic week. Yet in these two very different circumstances I feel invited onto holy ground. There are times when doing funerals can be frustrating because in our secular society those left behind don't seem to have a clue in the leave-taking from loved ones. Not so with these two. To read scripture and speak of our Christian hope in the face of death is a privilege in situations like these. To offer my thoughts about the departed, and to listen to others do the same is an important part of life, even though we are in the midst of death. To declare that God is present in the emptiness is vital. It doesn't remove the sting of death, but it can be part of the healing.

I'm not sure what comments to invite, but I would like to hear your thoughts about funerals and leave-taking and all that stuff.


IanD said...

I always find these stories you share so interesting as I haven't had to face death extensively as of yet. Thanks for sharing them and forcing me to face my feelings about death.

My heart goes out to the families of the two people you've discussed as well, and I hope they can find comfort in the time ahead.

Nancy said...

A very comforting service. The choice of readings, hymns and anthem were all very comforting to those of us in attendance, and I am sure to the family as well. Thank you

willowjakmom said...

Today's service was a beautiful send-off and I was struck by his son's comment that he was reading from a eulogy, that his father had written himself.

I so appreciate all of the conversations we have had in Bible Study and on this blog, about the contemplation that one can put into how they would like to plan for their 'send-off'. Seeing it put into action today and in Betty's funeral a few months back, showed me what a gift it is for those who are left behind. Not only are their lives celebrated, but we are gifted with lessons that they wanted to impart. The importance of keeping your family close, caring for the the least and the lost, making others feel special and living generously, to name a few.

My prayers are with the loved ones and friends who are grieving.

mkps said...

During the service this morning, we saw a little of why Bill was so obviously proud of his Grandchildren and family. While David did his usual great job, the Eulogies done by his son and granddaughter were extremely moving and powerful.

janet.rice said...

This morning (Sunday) I sat with his daughter for a few minutes after the service. She said her dad, Bill, would have loved to be present for both his service and the social time afterward....I consider this a real tribute to his family and to David.