Yesterday I attended the funeral of perhaps the kindest person I have ever known. She was my father’s aunt. And while my life did not afford me the opportunities to know her as well as I might have liked, I can honestly say, “I loved her.” I loved her smile. I loved speaking with her. I loved that she always seemed joyful and genuinely glad to see me.
I love the fact that I never heard her utter an unkind word. Ever!
But what amazes me MOST is that she survived her husband, two of her three children, and one brother. At seventy-eight-years-old, she came to know much sorrow…and STILL she loved…still she found joy and shared it with all she encountered.
I wish I could have known her more intimately.
The catholic in me thinks her worthy of sainthood…my own personal sainthood, that is. I too know sorrow. Perhaps not as great as hers,…but still very great to me. Perhaps she could have offered me sound advice. Perhaps she would have shared her secret. Perhaps her secret was her faith. Perhaps it was Jesus. Perhaps it was just that simple, and perhaps she had had enough practice to finally get it right. Perhaps.
But instead of meditating on these things during yesterday’s service, I found myself angry. Incensed. I wanted to walk out. I wanted NOT to dignify this pastor’s words with my presence. I wanted NOT to allow his foibles, his ill preparation, his lack of attention to detail, his lack of personal investment for so wonderful a woman to go unmet. (I stayed put, however, out of respect for the family.)
My faith teaches me that our heavenly Father calls me by name…knows the number of every single hair on my head. Knew before I was born – the moment of my birth, the moment of my death, and every sin I will commit between those moments. That’s pretty darn personal....and I am NOT that interesting.
So shouldn’t those of us who “officially” serve as the physical hands and lips of our heavenly Father do all we can to take our callings personally? Shouldn’t we strive to “make it personal” with each of our daily ministries? Shouldn’t the pastor presiding over a funeral service at least KNOW the name of the deceased? Shouldn’t he (or she) be able to deliver a eulogy without calling the deceased two or three other names (or parts of names) before resorting to the less personal Mrs. ---------?
I am sure there are times when family and clergy struggle to speak well of the dead, but this certainly was not such an occasion. I heard this pastor “putting words in her mouth.” (i.e., “…and I don’t know, but I bet she would say…” and worse still, “…and she said,…”)
Is this what we have come to? Is this how little the light of life is worth once extinguished…so little that a clergyman can’t take the time to better study his notes? So little that a clergyman can’t tweak and reshape his obviously formulaic eulogy to fit the deceased, rather than tweaking and reshaping the deceased to fit into his formula?
I posted last summer that I have been giving thought to my own end. Ahhh...“When I have fears that I might cease to be….”. Yesterday left me knowing one thing for sure. I want whoever delivers my eulogy to know my name. I want him/her to not put words in my mouth. I sincerely hope that he/she might know me personally and be able to speak from the heart rather than formula. But just in case…
My name is Brittney.
And I hope the following things can be honestly said about me:
- I LOVED more than I caused pain.
- I learned from my mistakes.
- I brought joy to others.
- I helped someone in need.
- I sought beauty.
- I hoped for the best in humanity.
- I encouraged compassion and tolerance.
- I personified (in part) the Sacred Heart of Christ Jesus.
- I am most proud of my children, my education, my conversion to Catholicism, my music, my poetry, and my photographs.
- Love, love, love.
- Be kind.