A few months ago, Liz, one of my former co-workers, died at a young age. This was one of those cases where “too soon for her to die” was true—an effervescent woman still perking along and inspiring others wherever she went.
My initial grieving was compounded by the sadness of not having kept in touch over the years—lots of geographical distance. So I was not able to be part of the comforting cohort around her, not able to revive her spirit with memories of our shared past.
Another thought pattern has emerged since I first learned of the untimely death of this friend and colleague: The possibility that when we mourn the passing of someone dear to us, we also revisit cherished memories, but with especially grateful energy. Perhaps a side effect of grieving? One filled with pleasure and meaning.
I am convinced that most funerals or memorial services don’t quite fill our need to recall in depth the importance of the person whose death we mourn. That’s probably why many eulogies come up short—not enough time, not always the best words, not the best setting. I have wondered how else the rubrics for these services could give participants the chance to reach back into their memories—and into their own souls—to find the most treasured recollections and then to share them with others.
In the case of this dear partner, I have found myself staying awake some nights, recalling what we—she and I and the rest of our friendship crew—did that was amazing, enjoyable, significant, cutting-edge. Maybe even a little wacky, too. I have gone to sleep with vivid recollections of how we all learned together. How we gave courage to each other when circumstances seemed dire. How we laughed our way into new ventures. How we knew what God looked like because we saw Christ in each other.
Those late-night thoughts give me great joy. Knowing that all these wonderfully significant things happened back then also offers me encouragement about what could still happen now. Perhaps with a different cast of characters operating under different circumstances—but still offering the same possibilities. People of good will and good heart—and with just a dash of audacity—willing to take on the problems of the world together. Having a good time doing so. Celebrating, sometimes with more than a little bit of gusto. Sidestepping anxiety simply because we’re in this together.
How about you? How do memories of your dear ones invite you to recast your sorrows into joy? Who are those saintly characters from your past whose recalled qualities still make you grin? Whose too-short lives are you trying to finish inside of your own circumstances? And what could you do to make your own memorial service into more than a formal declaration of spiritual truth?
Thanks for reading all this. I’m not finished mourning, so I look forward to more life-enriching memories of Liz, precious gifts that will pull me into a glad and productive future.
These memories won’t ever die.
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