Remember thy servant
The other evening I attended the memorial service of a dear friend who died a few weeks ago, aged eighty. Barb was the exact opposite of me–extremely extroverted and effervescent, always on the go, always pitching in. She was like Auntie Mame–you know, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” She was not starving.
Barb was the person who got me to venture across the street to Ivy-Selkirk’s Auction House and started me on the road to estate sale-ing. She never understood timidity. She was a Just Do It person. We disagreed about many things, but unlike a lot of people these days, we respected each other’s opinions. We agreed, after all, on the important things.
After years of Catholic school and child-rearing and being told what she could and couldn’t do, Barb finally threw up her hands and turned her back on the RC Church. She became an Episcopalian at age 55 and she never looked back. She became a pillar of her new church and it was packed for her funeral.
The church she attended in the city is a self-styled “progressive” one and so there were liberties taken with the service–four speakers in the middle–but it was still very nice and even (surprisingly) Rite I. The readers, all adult grandchildren, were pretty terrible, but the scriptures were well chosen. The speakers–two friends and two children–were wonderful. They made everyone laugh, remembering Barb. The minister, young and wet behind the ears, was straight out of central casting–the guy to call when you need a nerdly, balding, beanpole cleric. I would not hold his looks against him, but his voice was high and thin and he raced through communion. He made me appreciate our rector and long for Arthur Shields.
It was a long service, but it was a celebration of Barb’s life, so why shouldn’t it be? Her friends and family will truly miss her. And we will remember her.
“Remember the wonderful works that he has done,” goes David’s song–remember what he has done in the lives of each of us; and beyond that remember what he has done in the life of the world; remember above all what he has done in Christ-remember those moments in our own lives when with only the dullest understanding but with the sharpest longing we have glimpsed that Christ’s kind of life is the only life that matters and that all other kinds of life are riddled with death; remember those moments in our lives when Christ came to us in countless disguises through people who one way or another strengthened us, comforted us, healed us, judged us, by the power of Christ alive within them. All that is the past. All that is what there is to remember. And because that is the past, because we remember, we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.
Into paradise may the angels lead thee, Barb, and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.
(The quote, of course, is Frederick Buechner.)