Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An Honest Grief

The funeral for the matriarch of a family is today. Actually it is a Memorial Service since she was cremated and her ashes will already be interred in the ground (my friend said the word now is 'inerred' if the ashes are being put in the ground, but I couldn't find that in a dictionary anywhere).

The cemetary is in my side yard. The church owns it therefore the rules are a bit looser than they might be at a place that is in it solely for the business. For instance, if the hole needed is only for ashes then we do not hire it out at $300 a pop. One of our church leaders will dig it. I have even found myself out there helping (voluntarily).

This time the eldest son of the deceased asked if he could dig it. He is in his 50's and in good shape - still I wanted to make perfectly clear that this was not the family's responsibility. He understood and last night he showed up to dig it.

After I showed him the measurements I left him only returning once to bring out water and make sure he was okay. There are no windows on that side of the manse to see into the cemetary so he had his privacy.

I envied him being able to at least partially work through his grief by doing something physical for his mother.

In this day and age death (along with everything else) has been sanitized to make it more palatable and dare-I-say more marketable. Even the graveside services have temporary canopies, fake green rugs and other ornamentation making it so you really have to look to even find any dirt. For some this is a good thing, but I think for others they end up missing something whether they would be able to actually name it out loud or not.

I am glad at this moment, at this rural church we were able to give a grieving son a way to mourn that made sense to him.


Songbird said...

When we buried our baby's ashes in the church garden, we also planted a tree. I remember that the sexton, who had been at the church as long as I had and was a father of young children, too, prepared the hole himself and was quite emotional. #1 Son helped put the tree in the ground after the ashes were poured into the bottom of the hole. It was a hard day, but those simple actions meant a lot. And it also meant a lot that the church gave us a place to go where the cost of the tree was the only expense to a grieving young couple without the resources for a funeral.

cheesehead said...

Bless you, will smama.

Kathryn said...

When I was training, I did a placement at a parish with a large W Indian population. There the custom is for the men of the family to fill in the grave while the women sing...I loved it. It sounds as if your parishioner had found his own quieter way of achieving that same physical involvement in saying farewell....There is an increasing tendency here for families to lay out their deceased themselves too...which must surely be good in the same way.
It's miserable the way death has become unreal in our society, so that it is a huge ogre. I'm so glad you were there for this family.
Hugs x

jledmiston said...

You are a good, good pastor. I always wish we had the toss-a-handful-of-dirt tradition like the Jews. It makes it all real.

Listing Straight said...

I think that the word is inurnment... But I may be mispelling...

Whatever the word, you are a good pastor...

will smama said...

Ah yes, inurnment does make better sense now doesn't it.

ppb said...

When my best friend's beloved dog died, she spent an entire day digging a hole deep enough that critters wouldn't find him and wide enough for a 100 pound dog. It took 12 hours to dig, and she said it was the best thing she ever did. I think there's something about being able to perform that last act...the washing the body, the digging the hole that we miss out on when we outsource preparing the dead.

Questing Parson said...

How healing for the son to be able to provide for his mother.

How blessed this church to have the pastor they do.

Grace and peace

Teri said...

oh, everyone already said what I wanted to say, but I'll say it anyway:
You are an incredible pastor.

As for physicality: amen. We took my mom's ashes to the beach and scattered them, handful by handful, into crashing waves, tidepools, beaches, seaweed, etc. It blew all over us--especially me (my clothes were a mess--oops). It was perfect for her and for what we needed.

Revem said...

Amen and amen

Everything I wanted to say has been said.

Blessings to a wonderful pastor