I have a funeral tomorrow for the sister of a parishioner. C and J come to church regularly. C was on the search committee that called me to small church. We have dinner with C & J once or twice a year (husband and me). I blessed their house when the moved and buried J’s father. And now, with the death of J’s sister, I once more enter into the lives of her extended family.
I first met the extended family when J’s father died, suddenly, about four year ago. Her parents had just arrived at their winter home in Florida. They had to bring the body home. Everyone was in shock. It was so unexpected. I was the new priest at small church. J called to see if I would preside at the funeral at the funeral home. No one could remember or knew if her father had been baptized. Not much for church this extended family did not know how to proceed. And J, being a church goer, was concerned about what could be done. What about her father’s soul? How do we have a funeral like this? No problem I said. We can do this, we can honor your father’s life and trust in the love of God to take care of everything else. He was a good man. A family man. He loved and was loved. The funeral was just what they needed. Now. I have been asked to preside at the funeral for the sister.
She died Friday of lung cancer. Just three years older than I am. She never smoked. The illness was agonizing. Painful. She was not a person of faith. No church community. Her husband is devastated. The family wanted to know if I would do the funeral. So. Tonight the wake, I will say Prayers at the end of a wake. Then tomorrow, the funeral. I have written and rewritten the funeral liturgy hoping it will speak words of hope and comfort to this family who know little about hope in God, little about the resurrection. They are, I imagine, angry with God. How could this happen? I understand.
I will offer a short reflection. It is still being formulated in my being. Something about life. How life brings profound and sudden changes. Life as we knew it is over. Everything is different. And in that change, that experience of chaos and sorrow and pain, we are an open wound. Life leaves us wounded, marked. Eventually the wounds become scars that pull on us and remind us of what we have been through. What we have lost. The wounds also have the opportunity, in the scarring, in the healing, to make us whole again. This wholeness, includes the scars, but it also includes hope. Hope is found in the memories of the one we loved. Hope is found as those memories cease to be filled with pain and instead begin to remind us of love. The love we had and the love we continue to have. Love does not die. Love lives on. In loving and being loved we are able to move through the sorrow into a new day. The scar, no longer an open wound, is healed by love. Love prevails and life goes on. We become whole again even as we are forever marked.
I’ll work on it. I may even bring in Jesus, the crucifixion and his woundedness, and how Christians have found hope in those scars, have found love in the brokenness, the love of God who is with us always, but especially in our darkest days.
What I know about this family is that we go out for lunch afterward. And they will tell funny stories about their sister and they will laugh. In their sorrow they will find some healing in their laughter. That is how they will heal. That is where they will find love again.