He was driving --the funeral director, that is. We went all the way to Sturgis, near Rapid, to the National Cemetery for a burial, to complete what we had begun the night before. The deceased, a Veteran, embalmed and draped with a flag, qualified for burial in a cemetery where all the headstones are the same, floral decorations pre-approved and purchased on-site in re-useable vases, and the vaults are shoulder to shoulder, family stacked one on top of another. We had to wait in line to get in to the chapel, a cold, dark stone circle half buried on a hillside overlooking the hills and freeway to the west. And we were informed, at the start, that we had to vacate the structure in less than 20 minutes. Taps was played on a recorder with little speakers, the dirt offered (which I place on the coffin with the words 'ashes to ashes' etc) was sterile sand. A few prayers, and then we had to leave the coffin standing there on its own, whisked off to a place yet unknown after we leave.
30 minute funerals churned out all day long. If you wish to visit the grave, you must return the next day, and the headstone and turf will have already been placed --everything looking so undisturbed... like he's always been there --pristine and clean --the democracy of the dead.
And some present in the funeral party raved on and on about the beauty of the place, how wonderful it all was, so well cared for....
--becoming more and more alive in Christ. The grave forgotten.
After her death, my mom was cremated, buried at the foot of a tree in the church yard. The next year, the tree fell down. No surprise to me, with my mom buried in its roots. Now she is simply and fully part of the garden, all mixed in. I think she would like that.
My sister's mother-in-law died yesterday. Betty. Please keep her family in your prayers as they navigate the waters of death and burial. Rest in peace, Betty. May your ancestors greet you, your husband meet you, all the angels and archangels welcome you home.
Came home last night from the burial and led a comfort service --a prayer and hymn gathering at the time of death... a meal shared with immediate family to go over funeral arrangements. A member of Deacon's family --her niece's uncle, but in Lakota reckoning that is immediate family --first cousins are considered brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews your own children, their children your grandchildren. Please keep them in your prayers. (I was privileged to preside at the comfort service, and offered anointing and healing prayer --but I will not be presiding at the funeral as he was Roman Catholic.)
At prayer this morning (a Canticle: A Song of True Motherhood by Julian of Norwich)
God chose to be our mother in all things *
and so made the foundation of his work,
most humbly and most pure, in the Virgin’s womb.
God, the perfect wisdom of all, *
arrayed himself in this humble place.
Christ came in our poor flesh *
to share a mother’s care.
Our mothers bear us for pain and for death; *
our true mother, Jesus, bears us for joy and endless life.
Christ carried us within him in love and travail, *
until the full time of his passion.
And when all was completed and he had carried us so for joy, *
still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love.
All that we owe is redeemed in truly loving God, *
for the love of Christ works in us;
Christ is the one whom we love.
--for the love of Christ works in us; Christ is the one whom we love.... At comfort services, and sometimes at wakes, when I offer anointing and healing prayer, I pray:
I lay my hands upon you and anoint you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, beseeching our Lord to hear your every prayer, to answer your heart's desire as may be best for you; that you may have the strength and courage to do all that good work given to you to do; that your grief and sorrow and all that you believes ails you be swallowed up in Love, so that you may have that Peace which passes all understanding, and abide with it now and all the days of your life. Amen.
--and then, in the Lakota way, we shake hands. And the smell of the healing oil permeates the air, and coats my hands and the cloth I use to try to wipe them clean....
Life is messy. Healing is messy. Death is messier. I give thanks to God for a very messy soul, and pray that someday in the very distant future (because in so many ways I feel I have finally just begun), I may have a righteously messy grave, carried in joy and love. Amen.