I am the resurrection and the life

My mom called last night to check in on me – if you read the last post, you might have a guess why…but the past two days have been near perfect.  Yesterday, a member called just to tell me that she was glad that I was here and to say that I was doing a really good job.  Last night we had our nominating committee meeting to choose our slate of elder nominations, and without any pastoral influence (a first for them), they picked five outstanding men and women…and a youth!  I came home from work confident that I was actually accomplishing things, crossing items off my list…that feeling of being overwhelmed was fading.  When I got to work this morning, I only had one thing on my mind, no other distractions.

Today I had my first funeral.  Preface:  I was nervous.  It is September in the Lowcounty and HOT.  It even started to rain an hour before the service.  On Sunday, I had an internal (and external) struggle with how to handle the funeral since the pastor has retired and we do not yet have an interim.  The widow and her husband have not been able to come to church since I have been here, so my few brief interactions with them had been in their home.  The Presbyterian way is to cut all ties upon retirement- no weddings, no funerals, no baptisms.  In some ways it makes sense because it allows the congregation to really form a connection with a new pastor rather than relying on the old for pastoral care.  But in this case, it was just hard, because they did not have the chance to know me or a new pastor.  So I called the presbytery exec, and he gave me the go ahead to invite the previous pastor to do the service with me.  I did, and it took some of the pressure off of my first funeral, and I knew it would be a comfort to the family.  Anyway…

When we arrived the army was there preparing for full military honors.  I got there 30 minutes early to read over my stuff, and thankfully the other pastor got there a few minutes after me and we were able to go through everything again, so my nerves were calmed.  The plot was surrounded by huge shade trees with the slimest slivers of sun peeking through the leaves.  The rain had stopped, but had rained enough to cool things off a bit.  There were still pools and drops of water on the leaves glimmering in the sun.  As the service began, a breeze began to blow, cooling things off even more.  It was a beautiful setting.

The service went smoothly.  I didn’t slur or jumble my words, which always seems to be a problem.  I felt confident and comfortable in this new setting and role.  I was grateful for the leadership and guidance of the seasoned pastor to my left – I too often am quick to discount him because he is old and doesn’t like change, but in that moment I respected the experience and ease with which he navigated this difficult moment.

We stepped back as the army did their thing…marching, gun salute, taps, folding the flag and presenting it to the widow.  It took them about five minutes to fold the flag, and there was complete silence the whole time…just the sounds of nature arround us.  It was a peaceful, solemn moment – appropriate for the occassion.  Too often we feel the need to fill every moment with words or music…but we need the silence.  And as they were finishing, a bright yellow butterfly flew between those gathered to grieve, remember, and give thanks and the men folding the flag.  Witness to the ressurection indeed. 

I stood there watching the military honors, watching the family, watching the butterfly, and tears welled up in my eyes…I think it’s like Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias, “No one cries alone in my presence”.  It was hardest for me to watch the granddaughter, about 20, very poised, very sweet.  She sobbed and sobbed…and I thought back to my grandparents’ funerals and empathized with her.  I was caught up in the moment, and it was a beautiful moment.  I will always remember my first.

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3 Responses

  1. Truly a blessed moment. I teared up just reading about it. You painted a lovely picture with your words.

  2. Beautifully described. What a wonderful way to remind us all of the peace that comes with death through your experience with church members.

  3. What a beautiful post. I got chills when I read the part about the importance of silence.

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