This has indeed been a weekend of remembrance for me. Perhaps not for the same reasons that most people take time to remember today, but a time to reflect nonetheless. It was three years ago today that my father-in-law, a veteran, passed away…the first of our parents to go. Little did I know that it would also be November, one year later, that I would lose my mom. The pain of losing her has eased slightly only because I keep reminding myself that she is so much happier where she is and would not come back if given the choice! I still miss her every day and cannot help but wish she could have met our darling granddaughter, her namesake, who is now 17 months old and filled with such wonder at everything around her. I think Mom would have enjoyed seeing me as a grandmother as much as I enjoy watching our son as a father. It is truly a joy! It may be that I am more keenly feeling Mom’s absence because I just returned from the funeral of yet another of her lifetime friends. There have been so many in the last couple of years that I cannot help but picture all of them greeting and welcoming the newcomer to heaven. I am not sure how theologically sound this is but it is where my mind goes when I hear that another mother-figure has gone on. I probably avoided funerals in the past. I was so touched by those who made the effort to attend Mom’s, and surprised by some that did not, that I find I have a different perspective; I actually want to go and be part of the ceremony of saying goodbye. So it was that my sister and I drove 4 hours each way to attend the funeral of Mom’s friend a couple of days ago. Sitting in the church, sun streaming in the windows, piano playing, I watched as people were seated and wondered how they fit in with her story. The family processional came in, her husband in front. I tried to picture what he would have looked like as a young man and she as his young bride; how much happier that day must have been! There was a solo by an old black man who perched on a stool beside the pianist. He sang “Home Coming Day” a song I have never heard before about sunrises and sunsets. The even older man sitting in the pew in front of me wiped tears from his eyes and I wondered at his age if he thinks about how many sunrises are left in his life. Later, as a congregation, we sang “Now the Day is Over” a very monotone and almost depressing hymn that I remember learning on the piano as a child. Hymns often touch me in such a deep place that I am moved to tears without warning perhaps because they were such a part of my childhood. The last one we sang together was “Never Alone”. I literally do not remember hearing this for decades. There were no hymnals with the words to follow along, but the chorus came flooding back:
“No never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.”
I was not the only one who remembered the chorus only. The old man sitting in front of me belted it out in a VERY loud voice each time it came around. There was something so touching about this. I felt like he was singing from a personal knowledge of this promise in his life. It was a reminder to me that His promises are real and that these were far more than just long forgotten lyrics of a song. I am sure the family had carefully chosen each song to be sung that day. Most likely these were songs that were particularly meaningful to their loved one. This was a woman who by all accounts, and from my own memories, truly loved and cared for children. She raised four of their own but also “babysat” (before there was such a thing as daycare) countless children through the years. Some of them would grow up, marry and have their own kids, and bring them back to “Auntie” to look after. Many of these kids, now in their twenties and thirties, were ushers at the funeral. Some of them spoke very movingly of the effect she had in their lives and how she showed them the love of a stable home. One mother told of having to find a sitter for her three week old baby because she was called back to work and had no choice. She was greeted at the door where her baby was scooped into loving arms and her mind put at ease. I guess this is the part of funerals that I find so intriguing. I may have known her as “my mom’s friend” but she was so much more to so many others. We met people who had known here for more than fifty years and some who had only know her a few years and they all had the same things to say about their friendship. I left feeling privileged to have known her and to meet others who knew her in so many different capacities. I guess that’s the point. I would not have known all these things about her life had I not attended her memorial service and I would have been the poorer for it. So when someone asks what I did this long weekend… I’ll tell them I went to a great funeral.