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Posts Tagged ‘death’

“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” we sang at the beginning of my friend’s funeral.

When a singer goes to an organist’s funeral, it is a trip with the Ghosts of Church Music past. To the far left is the organist I’ve known for decades. To the right is a lady I sang with from my kids’ choir. Beside me is another singer from a former choir. The pianist and I worked together decades ago on other projects.  There was a time our lives were intertwined.

Sometimes we struggled through music for this performance or the drama of the rehearsal where nothing worked.

We’ve come together to honor the memory of a friend, for whom his music was his life.  Here, in this congregation joined to celebrate the memory of a friend, are the strands of his life and our own. 

As our voices blend at the funeral, I don’t remember the bad rehearsals. I do remember the joy we had when we sang together and things worked – the Hallelujah Chorus. The a capella “Panis Angelicus.”

Our singing is our final tribute, our final farewell to a musician friend. Every line of every song has new purpose. 

It feels like The Sound of Music, when the Trapp family sings “So Long, Farewell, auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye.”

At the funeral, we each sing our own final personal tribute. When the music ends, we wish each other a final good-bye in the parking lot. Our lives, once joined together, have ventured on different paths. 

This good-bye is no more final than the one we said to our friend who died.  Our worlds will touch again in the future. We will sing together again. Hopefully not just at funerals.

Perhaps when I sing my Alleluia and you sing your Amazing Grace, in our separate lives, we can remember each other and sing them together in our hearts.

The So Long Farewell isn’t final.  It’s just awhile –

Till we meet again.

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No family really lives a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Life is easier once you accept that.

Then the unbearable happens. We lose someone in our family’s holiday portrait. The first year is the hardest.  The bigger the presence, the bigger the gap. Sometimes at that first holiday we feel as though we will never laugh again. Joy is a memory. 

How do we get through a holiday when we’ve lost someone we love and our hearts are breaking?

This morning at church, I saw a family who lost their matriarch last week. Her husband, children, and grandchildren sat together starting this hardest of Thanksgivings together on their knees.  You see them there, together, every Thanksgiving, just as you do every Sunday.  Grandma would have been with them, singing and savoring her family. Kleenexes were in some hands.  When we stood up to sing, the youngest grand-daughter, sitting by her grandpa, grabbed his hand and gave him a big hug. 

It was like death was the Grinch who tried to steal their Thanksgiving, but Susie Who stood in the family circle and began singing.

If I could paint like Norman Rockwell, I would have painted the scene of a family, with an empty seat in the pew, helping one another get through the grief and the holiday.

Grief comes in waves. We can manage when it recedes. But when it laps close to the shore of our hearts, we sometimes feel as though we’re drowning. That’s where the beauty of helping one another through the grief can save us. Just  when I need it the most, you can throw me a lifeline which I’ll return to you when it’s your turn.

No one will ever fill that empty chair in the family portrait. We carry it with us. With time, and with each other’s help, it grows easier. The Thanksgrieving we endure now will eventually transform again to Thanksgiving, when we can thank God for our loved ones and what they gave us. Our suffering will one day help us better reach out to others in the same situation.

When your Thanksgiving becomes a year of Thanksgrieving, grab your Kleenex, and reach out for your loved ones.

We have been there too and will help you endure. You are not alone – never have been, never were. If we help each other, we can both again say more easily:

Happy Thanksgiving. And mean it.

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