Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Tales of Two Memorials

Last week I spoke to someone whose former partner is in hospital and likely dying. They aren't on good terms, to put it diplomatically, but shared parenthood and step-children mean that the person to whom I was speaking will be involved with a service, when it comes. The concern, bordering on dread, is that it will crude and chaotic, and totally devoid on any deeper meaning, let alone spiritual.

Contrast this with the memorial yesterday here at Bridge St. UC. It was for a long-time member, a wonderful, kind woman who maintained her sense of humour to the end. She celebrated her 90th birthday recently with many friends in attendance. At the service family members offered loving tributes, we put her death in the context of Christian hope, and we sang some lovely hymns of the faith. More than a dozen choir members showed up for the anthem, and the prayers by Rev. Vicki were heartfelt. Afterward many of the more than two hundred people in attendance came downstairs to visit and reminisce and enjoy one another's company.

As I've said before, I accept that our culture has become much more secular and that the rituals of faith have limited or no meaning for many. Still, the alternatives often seem bleak and without much substance. Oh well, we'll continue to be faithful, as we are able.



Frank said...

If nothing else: we need ways to say "hello" and welcome new life when it arrives; we need ways to "celebrate and launch" couples committed to new family relationships; and we need to say "farewell" on those occasions of our inevitable departures from this life.

Liz said...

I have attended several funerals and/or celebrations of life and have found that the ones that touched my heart were not always to the ones with religious or particularly spiritual overtones.

Rather, those gatherings (as opposed to services, which are often guided by rituals that can either hinder or comfort...sometimes both) were infused with a real sense of the person who'd died - his/her humour and personality and spirit. This was done through music and stories, mostly. But furthermore, I am often touched and a little bit awed to see HOW we touch people, throughout our lives and it's a bit of a wonder to see who appears when we're all done here, to remember who we were.

In the end, I don't think that it matters if our farewells are religious or not - only that they reflect the person we were and that those who show up to mark our time here, hold us in their hearts as much or as little as they're able, but that the weight of us is light and comforting.

Liz said...

P.S. That all said, there is something truly comforting about the ritual of goodbye, within a faith context. A few weeks ago, I returned to my hometown to attend the funeral of my oldest friend's father. I sat in a pew with my husband, my parents, who moved away almost 20 years ago too, and two other childhood friends.

We were surrounded, in fact, by people who'd known all of us for our whole lives and it was surreal. The church smelled the same and the hymns were timeless too, so therefore enormously comforting.

When the Eucharist was broken and held aloft by the priest, he spoke the words I've heard a million times: "Do this, in memory of Me" and I felt, inexplicably, that my friend's father had spoken, too. It was lovely.

David Mundy said...

Thanks for your thoughtful responses Frank, and lIZx2!