Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memory Eternal, Anna, may you rest in peace

So, it has been kinda quiet on here since the funeral, but I think now is as good a time as any to post about it, while I still have some floating around.

Anna fell asleep in the Lord about 7 hours after I was blessed to say our goodbyes and the funeral was on the following wednesday. From evening on tuesday, her body was brought into the church for viewing, prayers, and the reading of the Psalter. Many people, both family and friends, scheduled time to read the Psalter in the candlelight. I shared a one hour shift reading with Faith, Anna's niece and the daughter of the priest who baptised my entire family all those years ago, when we still lived in Etna. So, when the alarm went off, after struggling with falling asleep and staying there, there was enough drag in me, that I had a hard time waking up. Thankfully, I had already set everything out, so all I had to do was do minimal preparation. I got out of the house in a short enough period, but the little dog saw fit to disturb Katherine, who eventually got up for the day around 4.

I arrived at the church in less time than expected, but I am glad I was early, rather than late, so I could settle in a bit. There were two others in the church taking their turns reading and I walked up to the coffin to venerate. As I peered into the casket, I noticed how peaceful she looked and I felt relieved. In all honesty, I wasn't sure what would be my reaction to any of the day, but relief wasn't anything I anticipated. Anna's body rested there, for final goodbyes, and kissed the forehead of the handmaiden and image of God. She is no longer suffering, Glory to God!

Faith got to the church and we agreed on our sets to read from the Psalter for our shift and went on with it, as planned. As I read and listened to the Psalms, I really appreciated the humanity of the words. The crying out, from the depths of self, in all ways, toward God, our Father. If you have ever read the Psalms, you are likely to understand what I mean by that.

When the next person arrived, we gathered our things, venerated the body once more, and left. After a few words exchanged, we got into our cars and drove off toward home. I figured that since the funeral began at 10 am, I had better just stay up, since I was already dressed and such, so I made my way to an open coffee drive-thru to grab a little something on my way home. I drove out to an area nearby the air force base to sit and drink my concoction and think. It was nearly six in the morning and the sun was barely making its presence known. When I finished my drink, I went home to find Katherine awake, watching a show, covered in a blanket. Apparently she had trouble falling back to sleep and got up to look at books, play, and watch something. We had a peaceful and lovely time before getting Jay up to ready him for the funeral.

There wasn't too much trouble getting to the church, but Faith told me to try to come early, since Anna was a teacher and they were closing the school for kids to go to the funeral, of they wanted, so it might be crowded. We got there at about 915 and I noticed that the person reading might appreciate a break, as it was apparent that she had been up all night, mingled with tears and talking. I offered to take over, so she accepted. Until the funeral started, Jay and I took over the reading, while people filed in. I was very glad to be of service to the family, so they could just greet incomers and spend their time together.

It was a usual service for a funeral in the Orthodox fashion. If you have never been to one, the best I can say is that it is a proper sending off, a wonderful bit of closure, no matter the cause. I am grateful to have this prospect for a funeral for myself, when the time comes. Fr. John stopped after the reading of the Gospel to say a little something and one of the things that I really loved was the quote on the back of the paper icon card that Anna chose. "I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." ~Anonymous. Fr. John also mentioned that it was Anna's wish to have anyone, who wanted to make a donation, to give them to Faith, for her mission trip to Albania.

Afterward, we all had our last goodbyes and awaited the funeral procession to the cemetery. We followed the police escort (which was pretty neat, by the way) all the way to the final resting place of Anna, where we would sing more prayers. As the hearse was opened to withdraw the casket, her three sons, two nephews, and husband dutifully carried it to its rightful place. As they walked, I only imagined what my funeral might be like. I don't know who will carry me to my rest. If I am old, when the time comes, perhaps I will have some grandchildren who are able, but the idea made me cry. I know this isn't about me, but what good is death if it can't help us reflect on our own life and death. So I ask, who will carry me to my rest, because it has touched me in a way I didn't know was surfaced enough to call for attention.

Everything finished up and we all went back to the church for a meal. I believe that the mood had changed entirely, for the fullness of closure in the service allowed for everyone to bond and be solemnly cheerful, in a way. Funny thing about funeral's, they act as a catalyst for family reunions and I saw people, who are nearly family, that I hadn't seen in years, even decades! It was good to see people and I even had a dear friend who is like another grandmother to us, Elizabeth, remark to me that she is so glad she is Orthodox because all of the services are so beautiful. I have always thought that the measure of a faith lies in how they treat their dead, and I truly believe this.

Toward the end of the meal, Faith sat down next to me and she handed me a profile card about her intended trip to Albania and said she knew that I liked to knit things. I said yes, before she even asked. I then related how I told Anna, just a few days earlier, that I wanted to knit something in her memory, when she was gone from us, but no one else was in the room. It was quite clear that it is meant to be. I will be knitting things to send with her and, if you are a knitter or crocheter, maybe you would like to send something along, she hopes to have raised enough money to leave this upcoming summer for two years, so we have a bit of time.

Well, that is that, however anti-climactic. Life is as it will be, we are blessed to have our family, friends, struggles, and triumphs. May the God of peace, love, and light be with all of you.


elizabeth said...

it is such a blessing to be at Orthodox funerals; God is merciful.