A NEW YEAR
The snow continues to flake from the grey skies in this freshly born new year.
The year has just begun and already I'm tired, or rather fatigued. Probably, from the stress and the fact that I have yet another funeral this week. It is another one who was baptized in the church and never lived into that baptism through a connection with a faith community. Fortunately, it will all take place at the funeral home and graveside and there will be no luncheon at the church giving the church ladies a week off!
I tend to stress greatly over funerals, praying that somehow, the words I speak will offer some measure of comfort, impart the hope of faith in Christ, ease the heartache. I am always questioning, what will I say this time? Somehow, the Spirit inspires and helps provide words and God reminds me of God's endless supply of grace.
I think back to when LH's Mom passed away from a massive stroke back in 1999.
She lived with her second husband in a small rural town in central Illinois. When she died, the far-flung and out of touch family gathered in this very small town on the day after John Kennedy Jr.'s plane went down.
One estranged brother, who journeyed to town, simply couldn't face the family and stayed in the motel room. The other came from across the border from Canada, the daughters, and the other estranged brother were present as well as LH and myself.
The funeral home was a page out of a turn-of-the-century novel with flocked wall paper in one room and in the parlor - hunting scene wall of red coated hunters on horses leaping over fences, following foxhounds on the scent of a fox, no doubt. Oddly curious for a funeral home parlor!
The poor pastor was not even from this small town, that one was out of town on vacation, and he was the interim pastor of a congregation from yet another small town with no connection to the family. ( I understand that, being an interim and often not having much connection with a family - like the funeral I'll be officiating tomorrow.) Apparently, he was told by the Aunt (LH's Mom's sister) that the one son was a Lutheran pastor also and his wife was a Presbyterian pastor. I suppose that could unnerve even the most self-confident of us, clergy.
I couldn't even remember the passage he preached on. It was a long, overly long message (20-30 minutes in length) that seemed unending and probed the Kennedy tragedy playing out on CNN that day. Why such focus on the Kennedy's and so little on this family's grief and loss?
I was hard-pressed to hear words of comfort, hope and grace in this rambling, rather irrelevant sermon. I was convinced that the one brother, an adherent of an eastern religion who grew up Lutheran, after this funeral sermon, would never, ever return to his Christian faith. (He hasn't). How badly I felt for LH and his family, who needed to hear a word of grace, hope and comfort and somehow never received it.
In the car ride to the cemetery, the daughters came up with words to describe the funeral sermon for their mother: "horrendous, awful, etc." Not what one would ever expect to hear but all too true.
My sister and I were blessed with two good funeral sermons and services by two different Presbyterian pastors in two different states, one of which was a woman interim pastor. We left our respective services, ministered too, assured, comforted, hopeful, soothed, and blessed, amid our deep grief and sorrow. When my Dad was diagnosed, my sister brought him to the Windy City, back from the Sunshine state, where he and Mom had retired to several years earlier. So, the interim pastor there had no knowledge of my Dad, even though it was the church of which my sister was a member.
I pray that whenever I officiate at a funeral, that God's grace would flow through me and the words I speak, that no family will go away scratching their heads, feeling worse than before, and left in the pit of their grief.
Here it is, the first week of a new year, and already a funeral! I've been doing a funeral nearly every week since mid December. I pray this is the last one for a good long while. But I had hoped that since the last one.
It will be a long week, this first week of the new year. There will be two meetings, I won't be home til near 7:30 pm on Thursday, and Presbyery meets Sat. morning meaning I lose my other day off. My hair is turning greyer as I write with barely the hope of being colored, my van is due for an oil change, laundry and grocery shopping will need to be done, the shower stall is screaming for a scrubbing, the van needs an e-check before I can renew my plates! My husband and greys will barely see me as I run around doing errands on Friday and off again on Sat. morning. Simply not enough time to be together, to be home. It is exhausting just thinking about it all.
I will live it day by day, in the present moment with which God has gifted and graced me. And I am thankful- for a home to go to, for my greys who await my coming, and for LH who I miss so much. May the snow fall lightly upon the roadways in the next day or two and by Thursday abate, so that I may travel swiftly and well, back to the ones I love.