Tuesday, July 10, 2018
In Life, In Death, In Life Beyond Death...
New Creed Booklet illustration Gary Crawford
"in life, in death,
in life beyond death,
God is with us. We are not alone.
Thanks be to God."
Yesterday I presided at the memorial service in Kingston for my 85-year-old brother-in-law whose failing health I mentioned in an earlier blog. Truth be told, I'm reluctant to be in the "family chaplain" role, but I have great admiration and affection for my sister-in-law, Shirley, so I was glad to be of support to her. And, hey, I'd known Bill for over 40 years!
There were perhaps 75 people in attendance, including folk from many aspects of Bill's life, including his career as a teacher. Shirley's friends from church and community choir were there as well. And fortunately all five of her biological siblings were present.
Both our son Isaac and nephew Michael are United Church ministers so they were invited to participate and both did so with dignity. Sister-in-law Martha sang, beautifully, and Shirley's music colleague from church accompanied both her and the hymns.
We agreed that because Bill wasn't particularly religious and a no-fuss guy we would keep the service simple, which we did. Yet we wanted this to a worship experience, which it was.
What struck me as the retired player who nonetheless laced up his cleats once again is that this experience of a service of worship to mark the end of a life is increasingly unusual. The funeral director mentioned on the way to the cemetery that there are far more "gatherings" or no collective events at all when a person dies. Yesterday the congregation -- and it was a congregation -- sang hymns with verve and listened to scripture passages of hope and heard that we are people of resurrection hope. I noted to this disparate group of people that these occasions are a gift that we can't take for granted, and I believe this.
Gathering for the committal beneath the trees of the cemetery on a remarkable summer day was meaningful for members of a family which has been through thick and thin together. The time to visit afterward was filled with stories and mutual caring.
We may not want to attend funerals and memorial services but thank God for what they can give us as people of faith.
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