It was my privilege once again to attend funerals for two members of my church, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, Scarborough. One took place on Saturday, April 22nd and the other on Monday, April 24th. The only significant difference in the lives of these two people, besides their gender, was their age. Alfred was in his 102nd year and Debra had just turned sixty.
The love, admiration, and accolades directed to these two wonderful people by their friends and families left the rest of us wishing we had known them better while at the same time conveying the feeling that we knew them well.
Debra had been an operating room nurse, well known for her caring ways, sunny smile and warm hugs. She was also known for her tenacity in dealing with health problems, and for continuing to love unconditionally in the face of all adversity.
Alfred, had been active all of his life and even at the age of one-hundred-and-one, was still doing aerobics, walking, and standing tall and straight. Our Pastor remarked that when Alfred walked down the aisle to his familiar pew, everyone else automatically straightened their posture.
As end-of-life celebrations can be, these two were so inspirational that one could not help but offer congratulations along with condolences to the loved ones left behind; congratulations for having shared in the lives of these two remarkable people.
Condolences to congratulations…it was so fitting to offer both.
On Friday, I attended a memorial for yet another of our church members. This man was relatively young…under seventy. Unlike other memorials we’ve had, this was very sparsely attended, because Andy tended to be somewhat of a loner since his parents died a few years ago. He was devoted to his parents and especially his mother after his father passed. He brought her to church every Sunday, wheeling her up to the front of the church where she could see and hear everything, even though she was far from understanding anything. You see, she had Alzheimer’s Disease. But that didn’t stop Andy from being the attentive son he always was. His parents were the only family he had here in Canada, though I’ve been told there were a few cousins in Holland.
Although none of us at the service felt we knew the man very well, in his meditation, our Pastor made it possible to get a glimpse into Andy’s lonely life. He spoke of his dedication as a teacher, his political affiliations, his generosity, his devotion to his parents. Andy donated and dedicated several hymn books to the church in memory of his parents. I opened one on Sunday with his name in it. Even though Andy’s ashes were in plain view, awaiting interment in our cemetery, it was Andy the man who occupied my mind during Friday’s ceremony.
I could see him sitting in a back pew or even in the Narthex, slightly disheveled, but attentive. Very seldom did he mingle after service for coffee or tea as most of us did. He came, he worshiped, he left…or so it seemed. (In case you’re wondering how I could see him sitting at the back of the church, I’m in the choir facing the congregation.)
There is a a saying that someone can be conspicuous by their absence…that was Andy on Friday, and the weeks previous to his death. He died peacefully in his sleep one night and save for Jesus, he died alone.
I attended another funeral yesterday. We lost thirteen members of our church in 2014, and so far two more this month. It has kept our Pastor pretty busy. He always does a wonderful service but this was one of his best ever.
The guest of honor had been a member of our church and choir for over fifty years, and had a special bond with our Pastor, having known his grandmother from a previous church congregation. Audrey’s pet peeve was that Duncan seldom wore his robe, preferring a clerical jacket and collar. I don’t think I have ever seen him in a robe.
Yesterday he mentioned the fact that he now knew that Audrey had always lamented that his sermons could have been better if he had only worn the robe. During his meditation, he stopped mid-sentence, peeled off his jacket and donned the clergy robe…in honor of Audrey.
It is the first time I have heard a round of applause at a funeral.
(Thanks, Alan, for suggesting this blog.)