The waves lapped softly at my feet as I stood in my suit, hose, and heels on the boat ramp facing Dorothy’s family and prepared to begin her memorial service. The mid-afternoon sun blazed down, and I was grateful for the cool breeze from the lake behind me. I’m still not sure what prompted Dorothy to ask me to participate in her service. I had obsessed over it in the months since she called to ask me. I struggled with how to write a funeral sermon, something I had not done before. She was over 100 when she asked my assistance, so I had known the time would come for me to fulfill my promise. As it happened, the exigencies of family travel from both coasts to Texas for the service had dictated that the celebration of Dorothy’s life be a small memorial service at the lake, where she wanted her ashes scattered, as her husband’s had been some years before. Our pastor graciously helped me to prepare for the brief service. I had promised Dorothy I would make it short!
When the time arrived to begin the service, I began to speak as I have in various churches in the years since I graduated from seminary, but more loudly, to drown out the Jet Ski and motorboat on the adjacent boat ramp. I imagined Dorothy smiling somewhere at the commotion and fought down a bubble of laughter. I had assured her sons that I could speak loudly enough to be heard over the engine noise and had asked a member of our congregation, who was standing at the back, to wave at me if he had trouble hearing me. And so on that beautiful Sunday afternoon, we celebrated Dorothy’s long life of service to God and committed her ashes into God’s eternal care.
After all my angst leading up to the service, in the end it proceeded as smoothly as the other worship services I have conducted, except for the roar of the motors. Dorothy’s family expressed their appreciation, and I felt blessed to be with them during their time of grief and remembrance. I understand better now how my seminary classmates who became pastors can say they are blessed to be with people at such a time. I still marvel at all the ways God continues to push me way beyond my comfort zone. And how, with God’s help, I manage to muddle through in spite of my anxieties. Maybe in the next life I will worry less about being perfect and trust more that God loves me just as I am.
Grace and Peace,