My favorite person at my sending parish died last week, and her funeral was today. The daughter, sister, and mother of Episcopal priests, she was my most ardent supporter in my sometimes slow and halting progress towards postulancy and (D.v.) ordination. I sat with her every week in church, and we spent hours and hours talking in the sacristy as we cleaned up after the last service of the day on ‘our’ Altar Guild Sundays.
Those talks, and the ones we had at her house with her beloved chihuahua, Noel Coward, sitting between us, never failed to cheer me over the last several years. We laughed together about the “Old White Women for Obama” tee-shirts that she and another octogenarian friend had made; we rejoiced together about the adventures of our children and (her) grandchildren; we marveled together at the wonders of the communion of saints and all those whom we loved, past and present, near and far.
The week before she died, I was away on retreat at a monastery. Something suddenly compelled me to go to the monastery’s gift shop and get a postcard to send to her. Although I got it in the mail the next day, it arrived too late. Nonetheless, I recognized the ‘communion’ of saints was indeed communing in my desire to write to her at that moment.
Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to ask her some ‘serious’ questions as part of a class I was taking on ‘Aging in America.’ We talked about disappointments and set-backs, but she felt so blessed in her life that we couldn’t dwell long on those topics. The little triplets next door and their charming German au pair, funny stories from her life as an Army wife, and even the spiritual blessings surrounding her husband’s early death from a brain tumor kept surfacing in our conversation. She told me then that her intent was to live long enough to vote for the first woman president. I certainly wish she had!
Her funeral today was packed with friends and well-wishers. Her grand-children served at the altar and as pall-bearers. Her dearest friend preached, and her children were mobbed with expressions of love and support. Having participated in greeting the body and praying for her before the service, I was given the honor of dismissing the congregation at the conclusion of the service. It was a beautiful but heart-wrenching way to conclude my last service at my sending parish as I set forth to do the work she encouraged me to do on the path to postulated ordination.
God rest her soul. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.