We are lent to each other for a very short time. These days, I am confronted with that truth to an extent that sometimes feels overwhelming. If you include the pauper funerals we’ve done since I was hired in September of last year, my boss and I have taken turns officiating at 19 funerals. We have two more at the end of the week, one of them particularly difficult because of the age of the young man we will bury, the son of a member of our congregations who died in tragic circumstances.
The time of death is so raw, fraught and confusing, whether there’s a large family involved or no family at all, whether death has been long expected and comes as a relief, or crashes into a family and leaves it shattered. Words, especially mine, just don’t add up to much though that does not let me off the hook for stumbling through prayers, meeting and extending my condolences to a daughter as she looks at her mother’s casket for the first time at a cemetery where the wind is whipping cold. With each funeral I am asked to officiate for, I am more moved and more grateful for the words, the rhythms, the way in which the Episcopal Church Rite of Burial can bear the burden of death and allow for dignity, celebration and sorrow, all at once.
I don’t have much time for reflection and insight. These days, I make a to-do list early in the morning and work it through the day. I am grateful for incredibly small things: those who know me well know how much I despise driving, especially maneuvering in reverse. I’ve mastered backing into our driveway so when morning comes, I am good to go with a minimum of fuss. Such a small thing that gives me a sense of accomplishment and also makes my life easier. I am also grateful for the brief moments of connection with all kinds of people who let me see a glimpse of who they are before we move on. I am grateful for the fireplace that welcomes me in from the cold and the feel of cool sheets when I crawl into bed at night, so tired that going to sleep is my prayer.