Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Would You Say on your Funeral Bulletin?

After my uncle died, I got to thinking about my funeral or memorial service plans again. I wrote something that I would like on the back of the worship guide whenever the time comes. I'm sure over the years I will change it, but I found this to be a deeply spiritual exercise. What would you write on yours? Here it is:

If you are reading this, I have died. I want you to know how much I love all of you, especially my beloved Sandy and the fruit of my life, Debbie and Jeremy. I want you to know I love the church God gave us, and I gave my life in ministry because even in tough times I kept uncovering incredible joys and mysteries. And I want you to know I loved life and all of its strange unfolding.

I have requested each aspect of this service to reflect not only my life and loves, but to be a worship time that uplifts and brings healing of the heart. I love worship and I hope this time contains a glimpse of the glory of heaven where I believe we will all feast and fellowship and sing eternal praise. I’m already here. I’ll see you when it’s your time to pull up a chair and join us.

Remember that this service is not for me. It is for you. I have counseled many people through grief and have discovered that everybody grieves in their own way. Allow yourself time and space to walk through the journey with depth and find your joy. Look for the holy moments and find healing. Remember time is your friend and that others can’t really understand or grieve in the same way you do. Give them space to grieve in their way, too. If you get stuck, get some help. Otherwise, know that God is using this time as a means of grace to draw you closer.

The best way you can honor my life is to live yours to the fullest. Learn to sing in a way that “prays twice”, as Augustine taught. Let go of anxiety and behold life as a great adventure. Believe that your joy is a choice. Don’t be afraid of silence, God has spoken to me in amazing ways using that language. Find forgiveness and live life as a miracle to behold. If people oppose or challenge you, consider it blessing to be unraveled. Learn to laugh, and stop taking things so seriously. I have grown to believe what Henri Nouwen taught. We are not what we have, or what people say about us. These are lies. We are children of God, infinitely loved by the one who crafted us, made new by the love of Christ, and shaped by a continual outpouring of grace. Our neighbor is made in the image of God, too, even if they drive us crazy. These truths changed my life.

I hope you will take time to attend to your grief meaningfully so that you can move into a new chapter of your life with a restored joy. Refuse to walk through grief without meaning. Look for holy moments and know that, somehow, I am sharing them with you. Live life and know that you were loved by me.

Steve West
July 8, 2009