I’ve decided that since I’m a craptastic photographer, Wednesdays are not going to be Wordless, they are goign to be Wordy for me. So – I apologize in advance for the nature of this post. I’ve tried to edit the emotion, and find a good balence, but have no idea if I succeeded.
I spent Saturday night at Church. It was All Saints Day, and in my church that is a day we honor all the saints. The Episcopal church defines everyone who has died as a saint. We hold a special memorial service and list all the names of those that have died in our community. There is a list in our church of all the memorial gifts that have been made – going back over 100 years, a list of prayer requests and a list of those who have died. Additionally, we are also given the opportunity to add names to the list of those that have died in our own personal communities to be honored.
In the last 12 months, I’ve been to 12 funerals. I went to 5 funerals in 3 months. Some of those people lived long, healthy, lives and made great contributions to my life, and to the lives of people around me. One lived 46 days. Several fell in between the very short, and the very long.
Part of what we do at this service is put a flower in a vase for each person remembered on the list. The vases grow and grow until they are full of flowers – its a powerful thing to see it finished.
I think I made it through the opening of our standard memorial service before I was fighting tears, and at the end of the begining, I was in tears. Its a powerful statement of faith and brings back very very clear memories of all the funerals I’ve attended, all the people that are looking down on us from heaven, and all the emotion connected to that. As we got to the naming section, someone stood up and starting putting flowers in vases, and was quickly behind as names started to be read. The congregation had been invited to bring forward a flower, or put a flower in a vase when a name was called that was meaningful to them. I took a flower up for April, a friend who died about a year ago, and ended up staying up there to help putting flowers into vases. It was a moving expierence. I was grateful to have an opportunity to get out of my head, and focus on something other than the names I knew. Often a name would pop up and it was someone that I knew – and it was very moving to put a flower in for that person. The memories would come flooding back for a brief moment, and then it was time to put another flower in for another person.
Some were… personal. My cousins came up with flowers for thier Nanny – my great aunt, my grandmothers sister – who died in January. Some were… names I’ve heard forever, as part of the legacy of our church. Some were touching – Charlie, Ken, Lucille F, Edna… Some were recent – Jack, Kathleen.
As we approached the end of the alphabet, I was struck with two things. We were going to run out of flowers and we were approaching the S section of the alphabet. I’d been able to stay out of my head and in the moment, as all the familiar names popped up. Some were a suprise, some were recent. As we got closer to the S section, we had fewer flowers and were making them stretch. The last flower that I put in was a large yellow lily. It wasn’t pink, but I didn’t think Brooklyn would mind. As I put that flower in the vase, I was struck with many emotions about her and her 46 days – grief, regret, sadness, relief… many different things. As I walked back to my seat, I was grateful to have the chance to honor her and all the others in such a meaningful way. As we ended the reading of the names, the sight of the vases bursting with colorfull blooms – each one representing a unique person in the fabric of our community, I was with out words.
The traditional Episcopal memorial service is an interesting balence, it is sad at the begining, a time for grieving and mourning. However, the latter half of the service is the Eucharist (the Great Thanksgiving) where we express gratitude for Christs sacrifce, and celebrate the gift he gave for all of us. We end on an up note, knowing that all the saints – are in His heavenly kingdom. They are in a better place, free from pain and enjoying everlasting life. Its such an interesting feeling to try and balence the two extremes… In the end, I am glad I went, I was glad I was able to honor those that have gone before me. I ended up having dinner with my cousins that night, telling funny “Nanny Stories” and helping one get ready for a costume party.
So as I end my Wordy Wednesday post – I’m taking a moment to mention the saints that I know/knew: April, Daniel – Sky, Jack, Ken, Charlie, Carol, Lucille F, Edna, Dr. Jameson, Maya, Brooklyn, and all the others. Thank you for the gifts you gave, the gifts you leave, and for being a part of my community. You are all missed.