Funerals are not something we like to think about much, especially planning our own. If we were to confess, how many of us really get excited about that end of life stuff? Hands up–who has a will drawn up? Do you have your songs picked out? Your plot paid for, so to speak? We all procrastinate with this stuff, myself included, but I do need to begin to organize it.
While I was away one of the nuns I know passed away suddenly on Sunday morning. She was dressed and ready to carry on with her day but God had other plans, it seems. Despite the fact, that death was not really imminent, the good sister was good–she had quite a few items well thought out. She knew many of her song choices from the opening hymn to the fact that she preferred no music for the communion time. She simply wanted silent prayer at that sacred spot. Her sisters gathered around her at the end of the mass and sang the Suspice – Uphold me, O Lord, according to your will that I may live, and let me not be disappointed in the hope I cherish. This was a tender moment.
The beauty of walking behind the hearse as it slowly meandered its way to the sisters’ cemetery struck me as I set out. I had seen that image in films but had never done it and it had a European feel about it. Right at the end of the committal, the sun peeked out as if the sister was smiling down on all of us. Mine were not the only pair of eyes that looked up and grinned. I could almost hear her voice thanking us for coming to celebrate.
As I sprinkled dust on her blue coffin, I was grateful for this tangible act. I hope that this ritual might happen for those sending me off. I have always appreciated it when I can throw a handful or shovel full of dirt into the grave. We are dust–both earth dirt and star dust. Each of us holds the humanness of our bodies and the divineness of our souls. This lovely lady certainly had both elements within her.
I have thought about some pieces of my funeral but I will have to give it more serious thought over the summer. I have thought about songs and coffins. I have been to look at where my remains might be laid to rest. I have thought a bit about musicians. Lectors and Eucharistic ministers are yet to be decided. I want to pick out my own readings from the book rather than have my family do it–one less thing for them to worry about.
It is all a bit surreal, I suppose, and yet I want to try to make it a celebration like it was today. People smiled looking at the program, knowing that the deceased had her favourite songs sung today. I did not really feel sad today. I know that this nun has gone home to Glory and that her warm smile is glowing brightly in the presence of her Beloved. May Perpetual Light shine upon her!
Have you prepared for your funeral?
What would you do to make your celebration special?
Sing a new song as you go on your way Home, sister. Perpetual light shines on the path. May we all learn to walk it with grace and joy. Help us to prepare for this moment and not to fear or avoid it. Amen.