Jesus, girl power and a funeral
One of my favorite treasures is my little pink Bible. It was a gift from Mom and Pop Cutshaw for Christmas one year. I had been wanting a small, pocket-sized Bible that I could carry everywhere with me, for quick reference and portability. It has my first name embossed on the front in shiny silver letters.
I sometimes wonder if I own too many Bibles, and if that could be a sin somehow. It might be different if I didn’t read them, but since I do, maybe it is OK that I have so many. I have several different translations because they help me to understand what I am reading. I have a few Bibles that belonged to Mama, and they won’t be going anywhere until I have died and someone passes them along to the next generation, probably filled with poems, clippings and pictures, like they were when they came to me. I have several One-Year type Bibles that I use for daily reading, again in various translations that I alternate year by year. And yes, I read it daily. It’s a discipline that has taken shape over the years and now it is as much a part of my life as breathing and food. And just as nourishing.
I am not a minister in the official-trained-ordained sense of the word, but I took a ministry class last year which opened my eyes to all kinds of spiritual service and allowed me wonderful opportunities to offer pastoral care to people in need. Many friends and family members supported me in seeking this opportunity and in fulfilling it once I was accepted into the program. My cousin, Judy, was a very vocal believer in this process and in my efforts to learn through it.
Toward the end of last year, Judy’s mama, Betty, succumbed to years of health problems and passed away in December. Because of my recent ministry experience, and because she loves me, Judy asked me if I would serve as chaplain and preach her mama’s graveside service. After I made sure that it was permissible for me to do so, I accepted this invitation with joy and deep gratitude.
What an incredible honor…and responsibility. Judy and I met at a coffee shop to talk about memories from Betty’s life, favorite scriptures, poems, even a funny story or two to share both laughter and tears at the graveside. Betty had an independent streak and had been quite the feminist in her lifetime, a trait that sometimes made for awkwardness between her and her husband, Crawford, on election day. She cast her last ballot in the Presidential election of 2012, an absentee ballot from the hospital, and quipped that finally Crawford, who had passed away in 2011, would not cancel out her vote! Politics aside, Betty and Crawford both spent their lives serving Jesus and living by the principles He taught, each in their individual ways.
It was cold the day we buried her, and I showed up at the cemetery in all black from head to toe, except for one thing. I conducted her graveside service using my little pink Bible. Judy said that would have pleased Betty very much, the pop of pink and the girl power of a female chaplain. As I read from that little pink Bible, my thoughts were of Betty and our family, and of all the ones who have gone to Heaven before us. And I gave thanks for Mom and Pop Cutshaw, who had given me this wonderful gift so many years ago, a gift that helped me to send off my beloved family member with laughter, tears and prayers.