April 28, 2013
Hello, good friends,
Thank you, Lori, for posting last week. And thank you—all of you—for your support and prayers over the last two difficult years.
As Lori explained, I was in Kansas to walk the last mile I could walk with my sister in this world.
I want to share something of that last part of the journey if I am able to do so. However, as a wanna-be wordsmith, I am consistently struck both by the power of words rightly used and, paradoxically, the total inadequacy of words to express our deepest human responses. Today I have little confidence in words for this task I have set myself. However (thankfully) those of you who read this have an intuitive ability to understand the white spaces. I remain grateful for that.
Beth hated funerals. While she and God maintained a life-long relationship (marked, admittedly, by sharp conflict at times), Beth was not fond of what she called “churchy” things. In her instructions for end-of-life events, she directed us to have her body cremated, then, on some nice spring day, to inter her ashes in the old country cemetery where five generations of our family now rest.
Beth directed further that we were to do so in a way that enabled us to remember her with joy and, in the presence of her death, to be glad that she had lived and loved us. Beth was an intensely private person to the end, and asked to be accompanied on this last journey only by family and a few close friends.
To the best of our ability family and friends did as she asked.
We gathered at the cemetery in late afternoon. A friend sang a portion of Psalm 23. Beth’s son deposited the urn containing her ashes in the grave he and Beth’s grandsons had prepared. Then, gently and carefully, he covered her ashes with the prairie soil she had loved. A second friend prayed, committing Beth’s body to the earth and her soul to God in the “sure and certain hope of the resurrection,” and in confidence that we will gather together again some day in a better world.
Melissa, Beth’s daughter-in-law, laid a simple heart-shaped wreath on her grave.
Then, in defiance of tradition but in congruence with Beth's wishes, we toasted her memory (choice of champagne or sparkling cider), celebrating her good life, her brave death, and the marvelous music we believe she now makes in her new world.
After the toast we stood together for a time sharing more laughter than tears, then at the end, we went away and left Beth’s ashes there. I think of her resting with her family, the prairie wind moving the tall grass in the fence rows under the bending silence of the high evening sky.
I walked on the ground beside Beth’s grave that will cover my ashes someday.
I wonder: on that day when you leave my ashes there beside Beth’s, how will you remember me?
Seeking to live so that you can say good-bye with joy, trusting in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.
See you next week.