I went to a lovely memorial service held today at my friend’s Unitarian/Universalist church in honor of her husband. Even though I had never met him, I wanted to be there to be supportive of her. You can tell a service of this type is well done, when you leave with more of a sense of the person than you had before you came.
The reason I even mention this here was that there were aspects of this memorial service that I would consider in my own. It goes without saying that I would rather the service be about eulogies and remembrance than a casket or ashes. I liked what we did for my Dad last Labor Day Weekend, and this was done in a similar vein.
God was referred to but in a very open ended, ecumenical, nurturing, approachable way. I would cringe at having my memorial service too heavy in the letter of Christian Science. Even though very clearly my allegiance is there and it is my genuine hope for mankind, this hasn’t always been true, and most of the people I know and serve do not come from that place. To me, memorial services are not only about respect for those who have passed, but more importantly to support those present, wherever they might be on their path. A time during the service for collective silent spiritual communion in the sanctuary of each individual thought strikes me as most meaningful to those attending the service, best meeting each one’s varied and respective needs. In other words, yes to laughter, respectfulness, and earnestness, and an emphatic no to overt or imposed doctrine and theology.
Christian Scientists have attempted to take much of the ritualism out of worship, for which I am usually grateful. Maybe because of this fact I was touched by the metaphor of people in this service being invited to come forward if they wished to light a little candle from the flame of a central pillar candle. This was quite opposite of what we did in our wedding ceremony when two separate candles were used to light one bigger one. Not only was this an outlet for those who did not give eulogies to participate directly in the service if they wanted to, it gave those of us more peripheral in the audience a chance to be quietly supportive of those that might be feeling the loss most.
Another touching moment for me was prior to the service. While I was standing with my friend, a father and young son came over to greet her and to share what was clearly a carefully rehearsed moment. The father set the son up perfectly to say what he had taught him to say, and we all waited patiently until he got the words out. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. That’s all that needs to be said. My eyes welled with tears, thinking how many parents have not effectively taught (or been taught) how to deliver this simple task of necessary acknowledgement.
My friend’s husband was a professional photographer, and the hour prior to the service was made available to greet the family and see examples of his work. This is when I found out he had taken the cover photo on my atlas depicted below! This Japanese gentleman’s work depicted Americana wonderfully, and besides great composition, creative line, pattern and color, ironic juxtaposition and great light, his work seemed mostly to be about being in the right place at the right time. We did not know until the end of the service that each of us was to choose a photo to take home in his memory. The one I chose is at the top of this post, and I’ll cherish it even though I never knew the man. But more than that, I loved the idea, since my own photos are legion; it is a good thought for whoever is saddled with planning a service for me. My favorites photographs are already delineated in my computer, so barring huge changes in technology, this offering would not be difficult to orchestrate. It was very appreciated by all the attendees.
So often people don’t know what their loved ones would want, and seeing something I liked today, when I was in an objective frame of mind, made me state all this for the very far distant future when someone might use a possibly still relevant search function to unearth this blog as a clue to what might resonate. And music? I guess that could be a whole other post sometime!