I had been to only two funerals in my life thus far. One was for my beloved auntie Louise who had loved and served the Lord all her life and it was a joyful graduation ceremony. The second was for a three day old infant of my friends who were not believers and it was filled with a hopelessness and agony unlike anything I had experienced. With these as my only reference points you can see why I had no idea what to expect when I accidentally attended a funeral this week. I say accidentally because I wasn't invited and although I knew something of the deceased I had never met her and I had no intention of being at the service. There was a hearse parked outside the church but it was clear that they had not set up the sanctuary yet and so I asked if I could play through a few ideas for Sunday on the piano. I assumed that at some point they would let me know it was time to bring in the... deceased and I would get to gettin'. Imagine my surprise when I glanced over while turning a page and realized people were being seated for the service! Now if I stopped playing and just got up it would be awkward and so... I just kept playing and looking for the pastor (aren't they always supposed to know what to do?). When the pastor did appear it was to quietly thank me for playing and to ask me if I could sing Amazing Grace during the service. I lovingly responded with "I hope you are kidding?" and he just smiled and said "Please... it would really help me out" (since even I know you can't really say no to a pastor when they say please, especially on their home turf) I agreed. Begrudgingly.
As I listened to them speak the eulogy I was surprised. She was a wife and mother. There were letters from family and friends and stories and accolades shared but that was it. We didn't hear a list of the titles she had received. If she had any degrees or alma mater I didn't hear them mentioned. They didn't list the countries she had visited or number of mission trips she went on. Instead they spoke of baking cookies, sacrificed time so that she could be at practices and concerts. Her husband of 64 years sat in the front row and I saw his hand reach absently toward the empty space just to the side of his knee several times. I imagine that must be the side she usually sat on. How empty that space must feel now. They spoke of this woman whose life was given to them as a gift to make theirs richer and it was enough.
When we moved out here to the community of Elk one of the things I was hoping for was to find a slower pace and a different lifestyle. Where I grew up that wasn't considered enough. Outside of the home I grew up in, it was more important for women to feel accomplished and reach personal goals, then to give themselves up to help others reach theirs. I found out that she was one of the charter members of the Elk Homemakers Club that I attend and coincidentally attended that day right after the service. I am living in her legacy. I am reaping the benefit of what she helped to build. Because of her and other women like her I now live in a community that respects women who spend their lives caring for their families and loving their husbands for a full lifetime. My heart needed to hear that message. I desperately needed to be reminded that it is enough. She may not have left her "mark on the world" but she left her mark on their hearts and on this community... on me.
I may have attended by accident but it was an honor to play and sing at her celebration service. I hope someday that I will get a chance to meet her but to be honest as I looked around the table at our Homemakers meeting, it felt like I already have. I still don't know why anyone would park a hearse outside a church when the body has already been laid to rest. Is that someones weird equivalent to tying balloons to the mailbox when your hosting a birthday party?! I will say that in this instance it worked in my favor and now you know how a person accidentally attends a funeral they weren't invited to, for someone they never met and learns that there are no accidents.
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