We laid Mom to rest yesterday. We celebrated her life with a simple but heartfelt memorial service attended by a few relatives and close friends. It was the feminine version of the service we held for Dad 53 weeks ago.
We knew what to expect this time around, and that made a lot of the decisions easier. Like Dad, Mom had a pre-need policy, so she was transported from Conway to Dallas for burial. Her casket choice was detailed in the paperwork, and the marker was already in place on the lawn crypt she now shares with Dad. All it lacked was her date of death. She made the service choices simple, too, by leaving handwritten instructions about the songs and scripture she wanted used. She asked for one simple flower arrangement from the family and listed charities to be benefited in lieu of flowers.
Although she didn’t specify, there was little question about what she would wear. She had a cobalt blue party dress she bought for her golden wedding anniversary celebration, and she loved it. She wore it as often as possible after that. It became her uniform for weddings of grandchildren and other festive occasions. Somehow she managed to avoid spilling wedding cake or punch on it, so it still looked new. There was one decision to be made when Jo Lynn realized she had forgotten to bring jewelry. I went through mine and found some dangly rhinestone earrings and a simple rhinestone necklace that I hadn’t worn in decades and probably never would again. First, the earrings were clip-ons which I can’t tolerate any more, and second, rhinestones don’t go with jeans, even dress jeans. I showed my selections to Jo Lynn, and she agreed they were the perfect amount of bling.
We gathered yesterday in the same beautiful chapel where we said good-bye to Dad last year. The casket Mom had chosen didn’t arrive in time, so she got an upgrade. The original model was white with a pale pink lining. The upgrade had some beautiful brass accents added to the outside, and it had a pink flower embroidered on the lining of the lid and another on the blanket – a little added bling. She looked beautiful, not really like Mom, but the care staff had followed instructions and applied her make-up with a light touch. Her dress draped perfectly, her jewelry sparkled at her neck and ears, and her hands rested in a perfectly natural pose.
After a time of visiting and looking at photo albums Jo Lynn had made over the years, we took our seats for the service. In another season of his life, Jim sang in a gospel quartet, and Mom loved their music. One of the songs she requested was “He Touched Me.” Jim had a recording the quartet made of that song, and we played it for her. The other song she wanted was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and Jim’s son Sean sang that. Pastor Jason from our church officiated and read Psalm 116, also her choice. He focused on verse 15 which says:
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
I never really understood that verse, but Pastor Jason explained that it’s a matter of perspective. While we see death as an ending, from God’s perspective, it’s a beginning, a homecoming.
After a brief time at the gravesite where we committed Mom’s body to the dust from which it came, the funeral director had a few things to give us. There was the guest book, some thank you cards to be used in acknowledging all the kindnesses we have been shown, and a couple of floral gifts. One was a basket of flowers from Jo Lynn’s sister and the other was a potted peace lily from Aunt Fay’s church. We decided I would take the lily and she would take the flowers.
“I don’t have any place to put another plant,” she said, “and I have lots of peace lilies from other funerals.”
Maybe all those funerals are a result of being a minister’s wife, or maybe it’s an indication of where we are in the cycle of life. Pastor Jason opened the service with the passage from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes that says there is a season for everything under heaven. There was a season in my life when a majority of my social events were graduation related followed by a series of wedding related events. During that season, a large section of my closet was filled with bridesmaid dresses. The next season was full of baby showers followed a few years later by a repeat of the graduation and wedding cycles. Now I’m into the funeral cycle. As my friends and family age, I’m becoming more familiar with the end of the cycle.
But it’s a cycle, so there really is no end. The two songs Mom chose talked about God’s touch. One says, “He touched me, and now I am no longer the same,” and the other says, “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on.” Pastor Jason shared one more story about Mom. When she was in her early teens, she went to a brush arbor meeting. At that meeting, she asked God to touch her, and He did. Because of that touch, I wasn’t seeing the end of Mom’s cycle yesterday but rather the beginning of the next part of her cycle. Precious Lord, take her hand.