Tag Archives: funeral

Time To Go Home

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Timing is all…

Wednesday, August 30, 2017, was an intense day.  My emotions ran the gamut from profound sadness to overwhelming love to incredible joy, over the course of both hours and moments.  I’m actually still trying to process it all, and in doing so, I’ve spent a bit more time lately just keeping to myself and being still.

It was the beginning of my work week as Wednesdays always are, but with a distinct change in the middle of the day when I took a 3-hour lunch to go and sing for a funeral at Messiah Lutheran Church, where I sang and served from 2013-2016.  The associate pastor’s mother had died, and I adore both pastor and mom.  Being asked to offer music for this occasion both honored and humbled me, as I would have attended the service even had I not been singing.

Even the most seasoned of musicians sometimes feel nervous, especially when called upon to provide music for funerals and memorials.  It is only natural.  And nerves visited me as well.  My friend and #firsteverworkhusband Martin, knew how much I love this family, and how important the service was to me.  We exchanged messages first thing in the morning and throughout the day.  I had gathered a little token of love for Pastor Pauline to take with me and give her prior to the service, along with a big hug.  A reminder that she has not lost her marbles.

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As I had predicted, my singing was not easy or perfect, but it was, as I told Mother Farrington’s grandchildren afterward, with my speaking voice breaking,  “…a way for me to love your family…”  Reuniting with my former “choir boss”,  Joan, to make music for this service comforted me, and being back among this church family warmed my heart and made me feel loved.  As I have come to understand, musicians and people of faith are all part of the same family;  we never really say goodbye and we always recognize and welcome one another back.

I left the fellowship hall and I walked to my car with tears of sadness, gratitude and love…and I thought the intense part of my day had passed.  Knowing that Martin had held space for me meant the world to me, especially with everything he has endured this year…a transitional period in his relationship, his health, undergoing medical procedures, and his living situation, including being without a home for months and staying with friends/family, and in shelters ranging from tolerable to hellish.  His, and my, fondest wish, had been for him to find a place to live, and that process seemed to be taking longer than forever to happen.  Until this intense day.  Almost the minute I returned to work, Martin ping’ed me with a message.

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Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that feathers are for me a symbol, a powerful reminder that God is there, looking out for me and my loved ones, sending comfort when I need it in a language I can understand.  When this teeny feather floated down after the funeral and landed on the program, I assumed it was just for my benefit…turned out to be a harbinger of Martin’s wonderful news as well.  That his housing came through at the same time I sang and we were commending Mother Farrington to her home in Heaven…seemed, and still seems, especially poignant, and fitting.  For her, and for Martin, it was time to go Home.

Home.

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Promise

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Reminders of the circle of life…

For the first time in several years, we had a bird to build a nest on our front porch.  In the past the nests have actually been in a shrub just in front of the porch.  However this little bird built her nest inside a watering pitcher I had left outside on some shelves next to the front door.  The eggs were beautiful, pale pink with burgundy speckles.  After doing some research online I discovered that they were the eggs of a Carolina Wren.

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Watching this miracle unfold never gets old for me!  I check the nest, making sure it is secure and safe, seeing if Mama Bird is there or has left to find food for herself.  This little Wren has been a great Mama to her eggs, building them a quite impressive nest for a bird so little.  Since I didn’t notice the nest until it was already full of eggs, and promise, I missed the earliest parts of the miracle, but I hoped and prayed I would not miss the last stage.

This time last week, my church family was saying goodbye to our friend Ray, about whom I wrote in my last post.  I was unable to attend his funeral because of scheduling, and usually missing that chance to pay respects and find closure would upset me greatly.  But somehow, this time, I think it was meant to be that I just remember him as he was the way I saw him last, ringing handbells, singing with the choir and reading Scripture, multi-tasking at church in his customary way.

When I arrived home from work, I checked the nest to see if Mama was there and how the eggs were.  The final miracle had begun to happen!

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I missed Ray’s funeral…but God gave me comfort and joy on my porch as the baby birds hatched and their new little lives began.  He reminded me of the promise of new life we have in Christ, the new life Ray was just beginning in Heaven.  He reminded me of the care He has for us, as a bird cares for her eggs, then her hatchlings, providing them with warmth, love and security.  Gracious Lord, help me remember that You always keep Your promises, and that You ALWAYS care.

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Little Pink Bible

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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.Image