Dead funny

I do love a good funeral story so was delighted to come across this…

Susie Webster-Toleno of Westminster West, Vermont writes about a conversation with her five-year-old son. “We were driving past a local church, where the parking lot was overflowing in the middle of the weekday afternoon.
“Mommy,” he asked. “Why are all the cars there today?”
“They are probably having a funeral – or perhaps a memorial service.”
“What’s a memorial service?”
“It’s like a funeral, but the casket’s not right there in the room with the mourners.”
“You mean, the dead guy’s just lyin’ there on the floor?!”

“From Ralph Milton’s RUMORS, a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor.”

Send off for Tracy

It’s done. Yesterday at 6pm (1pm over the pond) St Mark’s was full of Tracy’s family and friends to send her off in style. Our service coincided with the funeral in North Carolina so it was lovely to think that at the same time Tracy’s family and friends ‘over there’ were singing the same hymns and reading the same readings.

We sang lustily and with good courage (and thanks to David at the organ). How lovely it was to hear that again in St M’s. We even had 2 bishops in the congregation and one of them managed to trip over the candles which were on a large wooden cross on the floor (in place of a coffin). It was an accident waiting to happen but I thought I had left enough room for folk to get round it when coming up for communion. His excuse was that he was 6’3″ away from them so not easy to see. (By that you may have guessed which bishop!!)

After the service most folk signed a Remembrance book which we will send on to Ann and family. Then we all tucked in to a wonderful spread provided by Muriel, Douglas, Margaret and Gloria. It was lovely to catch up with friends far and near, even though it was tinged with sadness at the loss of one so young.

Ashes to ashes

Lovely drive out to Penicuik this morning to finally lay Mum to rest in the family plot. My sister had made a beautiful floral thingummy with cream roses and a red one in the centre, and my boys took some red ones too. The sun shone, the sky was blue and the wind was breezy, as you’d expect, but we had a lovely view of the Pentlands which she loved. It would have been her birthday today.

I took the service and the boys scattered the earth on the casket. S didn’t want to come but he sent a red rose which was put on top. It was nice to be just us doing it.

In the rising of the sun
and in its going down
We will remember her.

In the blowing of the wind
and in the chill of the winter
We will remember her.

In the opening of the buds
and in the warmth of summer
We will remember her.

In the rustling of the leaves
and in the beauty of autumn
We will remember her.

In the beginning of the year
and when it ends
We will remember her.

Funerals and traffic

Lovely funeral this morning for a Portobello worthie. She was a leading light in the swimming world which I guess was the favourite pastime for all folk from Portie.

Anyway, after the funeral we all headed in to our cars to go to the cemetary. It was my first time so I followed the hearse taking one or two neighbours with me. And we drove the whole way at about 10mph. This did not please the white van driver behind me. But it did allow me to hear more stories on the long journey from said neighbours about the deceased, which was nice.

The sun shone and she now rests in peace.

Oh, and I met my first woman undertaker. And why not?

Last word on mum

Probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my few years of ministry was my mum’s funeral yesterday. But amid the prayers and support of so many friends and family, near and far, we managed to give her a great send off. Fr K stood by me ‘just in case’ and helped with readings and prayers and with only a few pauses for deep breaths, I made it through. Son No 1 read a wonderful poem – I’d pick more daisies – and looked so smart that she would have been proud.

Mum was a great hoarder and we have found copious quantities of letters and cards sent to her by us through the years. I made up a photograph album of her life and took it with us to the bun fight after the funeral. It was a great way to find out who some of the people were in the photographs and share some memories.

One of the nicest things to have come out of this awful time has been that we have become closer to my sister and her family. Just what Mum wanted.

A bit of poetry

For the last couple of years I have given up reading fiction in Lent. I try to use any spare time I have doing some suitable reading – usually of a theological nature.

Last night I was reading a little book called ‘Do Not Go Gentle – poems for funerals’ edited by Neil Astley. (ISBN 1 85224 635 9) There are 6 sections: Stop all the Clocks – poems of grief; Lives enriched – poems of celebration; I Am Not There – body and spirit; The Dying of the Light – pain and resolution; The Other Side – comfort and haunting; Nothing Dies – release and letting go.

There are all the old favourites in there and some new ones – to me anyway. But the one which caught my eye last night was called The Minister by Anne Stevenson. It was in the section of post-Christian poetry for those trying to make sense of death. Sadly I know exactly the type of ‘minister’ of whom she writes. And a warning to us all.

We’re going to need the minister
to help this heavy body into the ground.

But he won’t dig the hole;
others who are stronger and weaker will have to do that.
And he won’t wipe his nose and his eyes;
others who are weaker and stronger will have to do that.
And he won’t bake cakes or take care of the kids –
women’s work. Anyway,
what would they do at a time like this
if they didn’t do that?

No, we’ll get the minister to come
and take care of the words.

He doesn’t have to make them up,
he doesn’t have to say them well,
he doesn’t have to like them
so long as they agree to obey him.

We have to have the minister
so the words will know where to go.

Imagine them circling and circling
the confusing cemetary.
Imagine them roving the earth
without anywhere to rest.

Funeral

Big funeral this morning. I’m going to use the prayer from the Queen Mother’s funeral which folk always comment upon…
You can shed tears because she has died,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you cannot see her,
or it can be full of love that you have shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember only that she has gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back on life,
or you can do what she would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.