Monday morning I posted about the last time a friend came to church before dying. Monday afternoon we had her memorial service. I’ve written death into fiction before and it can be quite lovely–especially in Christian fiction. But that memorial service was better than anything I’ve ever written or thought to.
A bluegrass band played most of the songs. The band knew my friend well and agreed to do the service just the way she wanted. Wearing the purple dress and rhinestones my friend admired, the female lead sang with a pureness of voice that lingered in the rafters for the rest of the afternoon. Then the guitar player sang and even though he’d practiced his song 50 times he choked up there at the end and we all cried with him. Just so.
And there were scriptures read and words spoken–some made us laugh and some brought on more tears. But the best, the very best was the end. The whole crowd of them got up there and sang “This Little Light of Mine.” We clapped and tapped our feet and laughed through a wash of tears that were equal parts sorrow and joy.
I often hear funerals called “celebrations of life.” I like that. But only if we really celebrate. We don’t need another euphemism for death. We need more clapping hands and tapping toes. We need more people like my friend who insist we have a party without them. We need more endings that are just the beginning.