Probably you too have attended such a service and found in the midst of it, that you learned something about the person you had not known. A funeral or memorial service which has been well thought out and – in my opinion – allows for personal remembrances to be shared, fleshes out the individual. My sense is that only family members and close friends really know the fleshed out person. For most of us our contacts are contained in particular relationships, whether work, church, a volunteer group or other. Our having the chance to hear from people in these various walks of a person’s life reveals to some degree, the whole.
I attended such a service earlier this week. The one being remembered was a man I had known only over the past 3 years in my role as Parish Visitor at his church. I knew he was both energetic and a bit eccentric. How many elders have you seen helmeted and riding a two wheel scooter? I was aware that he had been a professor of Political Science. Sadly I did not really know his sense of humor. In the eulogy we heard that he had considered writing two books, one on How to Make Bad Decisions, and one on How to Make No Decisions. (I think they would have fit in nicely to the "....for Dummies" series, don't you?) The comment was that he demurred from writing the first, and didn’t act on writing the second...
We heard of his love for nature, for poetry (I wish I’d known that earlier), for adventure, and for living each moment to the full. He embraced life. His work in Political Science fed a strong sense of social justice - which was lived out, not just talked or written about. And as his children spoke we learned of his influence on their lives – a legacy which was evident ...the best of all possible legacies.
Over the course of his struggle with cancer I was also privileged to have insight into his wife who is equally strong, “scooter skilled”, and passionate about social justice. In my visits to their home I had a chance to see some of the home-crafted notes and booklets she had crafted, cutting out pictures and words from magazines to tell him how much she loved him, how happy she was to be his life partner.
These are the gifts we receive when we enter into the sacred space of grief. In moving through it, walking with others, our lives are enriched, and the legacy lives on.