I don’t imagine I’m old enough to say that I’m getting used to the years going by. Nevertheless, another year has slipped past and I am reluctant to see it go, blessed as I am to have made home in another place.
In these end of year posts, I usually pick out something I feel has been a lesson over the 12 months and this one is no exception.
The last six months in particular have shaped a thought that it is important to commemorate properly.
Today I watched Chris’ funeral. Chris was a trustee at Hope for the Future, and though I have only known her since September, she impacted my life just like she did for so many others (with her mix of ‘spirituality and exuberance’, as was remarked earlier). The following prayer and song were part of the service.
The Lord’s Prayer (a version by Simon Bailey)
Father and Mother of us all,
you are love through and through,
and we bless you.
Let your new world come,
let what you long for be always done,
in everyone, everywhere – and in us.
Be near enough to reach our need every day.
Be gentle enough to forgive us
the hurt we have done to you –
as we are gentle and forgive in our turn.
Never let us fall,
but draw us away from evil and the dark.
For we know the world that is coming is yours,
all yours, in richness and beauty and splendour.
In the past months it has felt like there has been plenty to grieve, both personally and corporately.
Strangely, sorrow is not the part of grief I find hardest. It is the sense of the surreal, the sheer disbelief of loss, the disassociation. It is trying to reckon with the thought that seeing Chris walk breezily through our office door is not a future possibility.
One of the things I found out about myself in the early stages of lockdown was just how important a sense of occasion is for me. I missed the ritual punctuation of church gatherings. I missed the commotion of birthday parties and weddings and official hellos and farewells and the way they landscaped the different months. Without these moments, it has felt hard to understand that time was still moving. Another feeling of disassociation.
Grief isn’t just loss. It too has a sense of occasion, and it is a celebration of sorts. Chris’ grace, and a certainty that she’d all want us to have a good time in marking her life, has made remembering her feel like a celebration, though so many of us will miss her.
Commemorating properly has meant grieving and coming to terms with what has happened, on-what-is. It means both not being escapist, and not being overly consumed by one aspect of an event – finding ways to hold the loss of death in the view of life.
A sense of occasion is for times of joy as much as for times of sorrow.
The call of Christ is a call to reality. Commemoration is part of following that call for me. It is a call to meeting with the clarity of pain as often as it is a call to put faith in the promise of hope. Sometimes these are one and the same: the light shines brightest in the darkness, and in the filling out the negative, the positive view is thrown into sharp relief.
Commemoration unites grief and worship. They are both a reckoning with what-is. What-is is hard. And yet, through all that-is Christ can be known.
The inexplicable end cues the reprise,
the curtain drop occasions the encore,
the farewell makes sense of the homecoming.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.