We had the memorial service for me mother in law on Sunday. Not a funeral, as there was no burial. Her wishes were to be cremated. So her cremains were in a simple wooden box on a table at the front of the church. The box was covered with a simple linen cloth. On the right side of the box there was an 11x14 photograph of her taken at the wife's and my house a couple years ago for Mother's Day beautifully matted and framed by the wife. And on the left side was a drawing on black paper of her as a child holding onto her doll with her right hand and onto Jesus with her left and she was facing a doorway through which a shaft of light was coming. Her husband drew that one several years ago.
We sort of made an improptu receiving line as people were coming into the church. The service began with the song "Balm in Gilead" (one of her favorites) being played on the piano. The priest, or rector (not sure what you call the spiritual leader in a Lutheran church) came up the center aisle followed by his wife holding a really large cross then a close personal friend dressed in white vestments and the family, the husband, the firstborn son and his wife, the wife and I, the youngest daughter, the sister, the brother and his eldest daughter, and an adopted daughter (our housemate).
We sang a hymn (forget which one). The first reading was from Isaiah 25:6-9, read by the sister. The second reading was Romans 8:31-39, read by the firstborn son. The third selection was Psalm 106:1-5, chanted (not sung) by the wife, beautifully done too, I might add. The husband read from the Gospel of John (hrmmm... I forget which passage now).
The priest gave the sermon talking about her life. How she "wished it was a musical." Aye, that she did. She loved music. Loved singing. Delighted in her family playing and singing. Her role as a teacher, leading Christian education, Godly play, even teaching the priest a few things. Her goodness, her generosity, her love for her family. It was really touching. I think there was another song. The woman did really like her music and we had plenty of it during the service.
Then we stood up as the youngest daughter and our housemate read the prayers of the people. Then I got up to recite the Mourner's Kaddish in Hebrew and in English. I believe she would have liked it as she was greatly interested in Hebrew and learning what the original language of the Bible said. Mind you, we're still standing.
Then came the elements for the eucharist, brought forward by the daughter in law and a close personal friend who is a pastor at a local church. Then the singing of a doxology and as people came forward to receive the bread and wine, another song. Gosh, I just can't remember the titles. We finally got to sit down after the family (who went first) went up to receive communion.
I didn't partake, in case you were wondering. Neither did the brother's daughter, who is RC.
Then the family recollections. Her sister got up and read something she had written about her sister. It was heartfelt and emotional and she struggled a bit, but got through it. The youngest daughter read something she wrote, which was also very emotional. The adopted daughter read a one paragraph statement, which was very sweet. Then the husband (me father in law) got up and talked about this woman whom he had been married to for 42 years and 2 months plus a four year courtship. It was sprinkled with little anecdotes that made some laugh, which was nice. I was grateful that he said he would not go into detail over that time period. I also wonder, how do you tell a group of people (most of whom who knew her, but only marginally) of the love of your life that you had for so many years? Can it really be condensed into a five, ten minute speech? Not really. No, not at all. People would be left with a few select memories of this woman. What her family wished to share about her. Which is nice and all, but you still don't know her. Ah well, the service would take way way way too long if everybody who ever knew her got up and said something about her.
The Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, some more hymns and a commendation. It's all out of order, but those pieces were in the service as well. Ah, the last hymn was "Onward Christian Soldiers." I think she would have liked that as well. Once the memorial service is over, which we called a celebration of her life, it's time to march on. It's time to carry her memory and light forward into the world. Do as she would wish us to do. Live life fully, for the glory of God. Serve Him with all your heart and soul, for such was her life.
We finally get done, the wife races to the rest room, and we form another receiving line. It was really nice to see how many people had come to the service. The husband's co-workers, friends of the family, church members, members of the community choir of which she participated, people we hadn't seen in years, even my boss and his wife and our office manager and his wife came. Now, my boss and his wife had met me mother in law twice. Once at a Jack and Jill party during the wife and my engagement. And the second time was at our wedding. The office manager and his wife had never met her, but they showed up anyway to support me. That was a nice touch.
In the hallway outside the sanctuary were several tables and chairs for people to sit at and have coffee or tea. And on one of the tables was a small photo album that the youngest daughter had put together with photographs of her mother from infancy through college, marriage, and motherhood. Really very neat. Also included were photographs of her parents, her siblings, her husband, her children, the pets, family vacations, family friends, etc. Again, pieces of her life.
All in all it was a really nice ceremony. Very touching, but also good for the soul.
Praise Adonai to Whom our praise is due. Praise Adonai to Whom our praise is due, now and forever.