Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Mementos, Memories, and Memorials,

In between playing with lego, playdough and dinosaurs, I have been sorting through drawers and cupboards. As you are already no doubt aware, tidiness is not my strong point. So therefore in this house there are lots of drawers and cupboards filled with all manner of unclassified paperwork, bit of broken toy for fixing, odd crayons, and buttons etc.

The tidying all goes well until I come across something which for happy or sad reasons makes me stop in my tracks, sit down, and peruse it. By the time I am back on track, I have usually forgotten where I have got to, and the whole cycle starts again.

This has happened twice so far this week. The first occasion was Sunday night, when i was searching through my bedside cabinet for a vital piece of paperwork (not the most logical place to keep it and it has now been moved!). I found all my Dad's licences from the churches to which he served during his ministry. I knew I had them somewhere, certain things came into my possession after Dad died because we as a family couldn't bear to throw them away. I sat down and read through them one after the other, reminiscing about the moves, the licensing service, who had been staying with us at the time, how young I was etc etc. There were a couple of service booklets in the pile including the service to celebrate Dad's 25th Anniversary of Ordination, in later service books as in this one, one hymn was always a part of each service. The great Wesley number "And can it be". It was always deeply moving for us all as a family, the verse which concludes "My chains fell off my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee" spoke clearly to Dad. They were an opportunity to leave behind the old, and move into new and exciting ministerial experiences, following God's call and were therefore a rousing end to a final service in a parish or a declaration of Dad's commitment to following Christ into his new parish at the licensing service.

When Dad died there was no question of the hymns for his Requiem. Thine be the Glory, Sweet Sacrament Divine, and And Can it Be. This time the verse to note was the last one:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

The wonderful Eulogy given by a dear friend of my parents, included a piece from the book Dad had been writing at the time of his death.
When my father died in 1973, I selected the memorial cards and chose the verse beginning 'I am the Resurrection and the life...' I did not pick this verse in a sentimental comforting way: I knew my father was with the Lord. I selected it as a statement of belief for both of us. Each of us shares in Jesus' resurrection in two ways - firstly in a sacramental way through Baptism and the Eucharist and secondly through the free action of ours which welcomes God's graciousness. We are spurred on and energised by God's Spirit towards the final fulfilment. However broken and hurt we may be God's healing is available for us, first in this world and ultimately in the next. 
On this occasion the find was a happy one, and I am grateful for my lack of order because it gives me the chance to stumble upon these memories in a natural and organic kind of way. This last week a dear friend died suddenly and left his wife of 50 years bereft, shocked and overwhelmed with grief. So this exercise, as well as drawing my mind back to my dear Dad has also given me the opportunity to stop and pray, for the soul of this departed friend and for God's comfort for his wife and family in their grief. Also to pray for all who grieve for those they love but see no longer in this life.

Faithful God,
Lord of all creation,
You desire that nothing redeemed by your Son
Will ever be lost,
Comfort those who grieve,
Grant eternal rest to the faithful departed,
May they rest in peace.

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