My pastor recently blogged about the "Poverty of modern Christian funerals. You can read about it here: http://stevehickey.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/the-poverty-of-modern-christian-funerals/. He links an article in Christian Century, describing the current trends in Christian funerals, which you can read about here. http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=7852 I read all of this with interest a couple of weeks ago, totally unsuspecting that I would be trekking east to attend the untimely funeral of my sister.
I've always liked my brother-in-law. I've known him since I was 15 and we've been good friends ever since. He is a solid, smart, funny, practical and wise man. He loved my sister well, despite a chronic illness that changed her personality, humor and abilities. I have the highest respect for him and love him all the more for his faithfulness and love for Sue. And honestly, for the funeral that he created. My sisters funeral was decidedly Christian, recognizing the hope of heaven. It allowed us time to cry and grieve together, was full of ritual and liturgy, songs that ministered to our heart hurt and focused on God's saving grace. For that I am forever grateful. The ritual of funeral allowed us to say "good-bye" to our daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend,with dignity and peace and also allowed us the opportunity to focus on the fact that we would see her again.
Doug chose a beautiful spray of roses for the coffin that was huge and colorful. Before they lowered the coffin, the pastor gave roses to the women, starting with her daughter, my sister and I. He handed me a red one and I cried. Cried for the love of my sister; cried for the loss that is now in my life; cried for what's to come. Cried for the hope of heaven and for healing. Thank-you Sue, for the beauty of your life. Thank-you Doug for celebrating it well.
From An Acceptable Time, by Madeline L'Engle, (with a slight revision), "All I know is that Sue gave me great riches, and we would, all of us, be less than we are if it weren't for those we love and who've loved us who have died."