Remembering the Dead

Yesterday, I officiated the funeral service for a woman who lived to be 103 years old.

Like a lot of folks who live for a century, she had spent the last decade and a half in a nursing home, battling hearing loss and dementia, a failing body and a failing spirit.  But she was a 103 for cryin’ out loud.

Living to be a 103 means that you’ve seen horse drawn carriages meet model t’s, on the main street of small town Missouri. You’ve been the recipient of, shall we say, the “transition” from outdoor plumbing, to indoor. You’ve witnessed two World Wars…and too many not-quite-world wars.  You’ve benefited from the common use of the household telephone…the household computer…the cell phone…internet…and email.  You’ve watched the assassination of a president on your black and white television and the crowning of an American Idol on your high-def, flat screen in the common room of your nursing home.

But it also means that all your friends have died.  And that when it’s time for folks to sit with you…and admire the mahogany casket you picked out 42 years ago…and sing the songs you chose together, with your second husband, when he was still alive…and pray for the repose of your soul….

You are alone.

Just you and the curator of your estate, who is holding three dozen laminated obituary bookmarks.  Just in case.

As the officiate…and the minister of this woman’s church…I was heartbroken.  What does it say, when we don’t have time to sit in a pew for 28 minutes to honor a woman who lived and worked and breathed in this world for 103 years?

We do an awful lot of “remembering the dead” in the church.  It’s a hazard of the job, when the main guy was crucified. But we still have a hard time honoring death.  And life.

I don’t know why folks didn’t show up to pay their regards on Monday.  It was cold?  It was a Monday in the middle of the work day?  No one knew who she was?  Life got in the way?

I’m not sure I would have attended either, if I hadn’t been expected to be there.  If I’m honest, 28 minutes is a pretty huge commitment when I’ve got toilets to clean and emails to return and American Idol to watch…

But she was 103.  For cryin’ out loud…


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