Sunday, May 15, 2005


"That’s all that’s left of a life," my sister-in-law said yesterday. "A mound of dirt, fading flowers, and memories."

We were standing beside her mother’s grave, most of the people having gone home and the cemetery guy in his overalls pottering around raking up the last of the dirt.

As a minister’s wife in a church with a large percentage of elderly people, I am used to funerals. I have family and friends who haven’t been to a funeral in probably 15 years, and I can’t imagine. I have been at big funerals and small ones, funerals where we laughed and funerals where we cried and funerals where we did neither. I have seen what goes on behind the scenes, from making food for the meal afterward to stepping into the church nursery to nurse the baby and finding two black-suited funeral-home guys relaxing in the rocking chairs.

Most of these funerals have been for people who were no relation to me and who spent the last few years in a nursing home, which makes the final goodbye tinged with relief rather than deep grief. But in the last 6 months they have been closer to home.

Paul’s dad passed away in November. This time it was us on the receiving end of food and flowers, we who gathered to plan the funeral and who solemnly filed into the church in front of hundreds of people.

And yesterday we buried Geneva’s mom. Geneva, my brother Phil’s wife, is an only child, a weighty burden to bear at the best of times and a nearly-impossible load when one’s parents grow old and die. Her mom had such a bad heart that she couldn’t walk across the kitchen without gasping for breath, so a week and a half ago she had heart surgery. All went well for nearly a week, but then something went wrong, her heart stopped, and she was on life support until they shut down the machines the next day.

So there we were at the hospital, trying to be family for her because we realized that the whole weight of these decisions was on her and Phil. Should they pull the plug, first of all? Then, which funeral home, which casket, which day for the funeral, which songs, who should officiate?

Paul ended up calling the funeral home and working out arrangements for the service, bless him, since Geneva didn’t have any big brothers to do it.

The funeral was simple and nice and people told Irene goodbye and we buried her, and Geneva was left with, as she said, a mound of dirt, fading flowers, and memories.

And a lot more. What a blessing it is to those who come behind us to live a good life and die a good death. Everyone had good memories of Irene and knew that she had finished her work and was ready to go. No lingering doubts, no terrible shock, no nagging what-if’s. Just a gentle goodbye. What a gift.

Quote of the Day:
"I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself."


  1. I've been watching your blog, Dorcas, figuring you would post something about Irene's funeral.

    Thank you.

    May the Lord bless you and Paul with vision and wisdom and grace as you continue to be pillars for Phil and Geneva.

    And may the Lord bless Hilary on this her quinceañera (if my computer recalls correctly).

    Keep chugging,

  2. Thanks, Mark.
    Yes, Hillary's 15 today.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! You're a lovely and lovable niece.

  3. Oh I'm so sorry for Geneva's loss. She and I grew up together and were always the best of friends. I've lost contact with her in the last couple of years so was not aware that Irene had passed.

    I will give her a call.

  4. My cousins and I sang this song at my Grandpa's funeral a couple weeks ago:
    (by MercyMe)
    "You're in a better place,
    I've heard a thousand times.
    And at least a thousand times, I've rejoiced for you.
    But the reason why I'm broken,
    the reason why I cry,
    is how long must I wait to be with you.
    I close my eyes, and I see your face,
    if home's where my heart is
    then I'm out of place.
    Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow.
    I've never been more homesick than now."

    It is always hard to see that mound of dirt, and think that's all that's left. But how lovely are the memories, and - in my Grandpa's case - there is a legacy that he left us...that of serving the Lord faithfully no matter what.
    ~Laura J.

  5. This brings back memories of my grandma's funeral almost five years ago. As my family and I said our last "good-byes" before the casket closed and the funeral started, the ache and pain in our hearts was almost unbearable. As the service progressed, God laid it on someone's heart to lead us in praise and worship to our Father. Oh the peace that came from turning our hearts to our heavenly Father! I won't soon forget that lesson on praise.


  6. Ps 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

    Ps 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

    Joh 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
    3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

    Death is so grievious to us mortals, even though we are Christians. Yet the Word of God speaks peace to us as we watch our loved ones depart this life and leave us to carry on with life without them. In our grief, let us view these 'mounds of dirt' as our monuments to the hope of the Resurrection as promised by our Lord.

    1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
    17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
    18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.