Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Departure Emcee

We got an interesting call last night.

It was from Fellow Traveler's high school BFF, with whom FT has kept in contact over the years and who is one of our collective Facebook friends. Last week our friend's oldest brother -- this is one of those families whose elder children are an entire generation removed from the younger siblings -- died suddenly. Almost as suddenly, his spouse decided to have him cremated, sans funeral.

Well, of course, this didn't sit well with his family, and wheels were set in motion, and now -- with the wife's consent and participation -- the larger extended family is going to hold a "Celebration of Life" in his honor in two weeks.

The family is nominally Lutheran but not observant. One brother did join a fundamentalist church -- which, according to FT, led to a family funeral disaster several years ago when the family matriarch died and the brother enlisted his own, fundamentalist pastor for the funeral service. The pastor opined that Mother was likely in hell now, and that the assembled were on the short track there as well if they didn't make a decision to ask Jeezus to be their personal Savior right then and there. Well.

When D called, saying, "I have a huge favor to ask of you two," we wondered if she wanted to spend the night at our home, since her brother spent his summers in a resort community not far from ours. What she asked instead was if I -- me, lowly lay minister -- would be willing to lead, in an ecclesiastically off-the-reservation way, the memorial for her brother. The event would be at another sibling's home on the 8th; on the day we were to be happily vacationing in Hessel at the Wooden Boat Festival.


Thoughts of vacation disappointment (this is the second wrench to be thrown in the direction of our trip -- I momentarily thought, "Maybe God doesn't want us in the Upper Peninsula") as well as panic ("I don't know nuthin' 'bout doin' no Celebrations of Life, Miz Scarlett!") passed through my mind.

But I said, "Yes." Because this is Fellow Traveler's very best friend, from way back. Because they don't have a family clergyperson they can call upon for this task. Because this is a chance to help communicate God's love and grace to a group of people who need to hear it, and to demonstrate that we church folks aren't jerks all of the time.

So FT's friend and I are going to e-mail back and forth for the next few days, help me get to know her deceased brother's story, share some ideas for the memorial. I have the beginnings of an outline in my head.

The vaycay gets moved back a day and a half. The Chris-Crafts will be gone but Hessel will still be there. It's going to be okay.


Chris Duckworth said...

Hey there ...

You'll do great. And don't worry about the ecclesiastical reservation - memorial services are not one of those rites restricted to the ordained estate! I did several before I was ordained.

Even if you soft-pedal some of the religious language owing to the family's limited connection to the church, I find the outline and framework of the funeral liturgy to be very helpful. And even for the non-religious, Psalm 23 and There Are Many Rooms in My Father's House are always nice.

Blessings! You'll do a great job bringing the comfort of the Gospel to this family ... whether or not you have explicit Gospel words on your lips.


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

And may you ALL be blessed during these days.

Beth said...

God will do great things with you. By the way, we'll be in the UP starting the first. I'll ask them to keep the light on for you.