This afternoon, HomeReach Hospice and Kobacker House held a non-denominational memorial service for the families of their patients who died between October and January. I’d had it on my calendar for over a month, having RSVP’d immediately when I received the invitation.
Well, beginning Friday, as I thought about my weekend plans, I felt as though I was forgetting something, but couldn’t think what it was. My daughter and I went to brunch this morning, and on the way back, she needed to stop and pick something up at her apartment. By chance, we passed North Broadway United Methodist Church and it must have been between services as there were a lot of people outside.
It hit me immediately – that was the location of the memorial service! I had completely forgotten about it and must have missed it. Once I got my wits about me, I remembered it was actually scheduled for 3pm, so I was fine. I firmly believe that whole experience was a God wink… there was a reason we had to stop at Jess’ place, which took us on a completely different route than we would have otherwise taken. Mama was sending a reminder from Heaven… “Aren’t you forgetting something??”
The service was just beautiful, and the church was almost full. The officiating chaplain, from HomeReach, was incredible. Every single word she said resonated with me. I couldn’t believe it – it was as though she was talking directly to me. I cried through the entire service, as did many around me. It was so heartfelt and honest and simple, yet with a depth greater than I can describe.
At the end of the service, they lit candles and read the names of the loved ones of all families in attendance. When your special person’s name was read, you stood and someone brought you a flower. It was done so tastefully; the next name was never read before the previous person/family had received their flower and been reseated. In essence, this created an individualized tribute for each person rather than just someone standing at the lectern reading a list of names.
I continue to be awed by the times I think I have it together – like today – and then find out how completely wrong I was. I had barely gotten inside the church before my eyes welled up and I felt that all too familiar lump in my throat. Tears continued steadily throughout the hour, and I realized at one point that I couldn’t watch other families receive their flowers because the look of grief on their faces was too much to bear.
It was a bit surreal to look around that large sanctuary, realizing that every person there was just like me – they had recently lost someone they loved, and they are trying to figure out life without that person that was such an integral part of them. None of us knew each other, yet we shared so much. Difficult to describe, but definitely like nothing I had ever experienced.
As I said, everything the chaplain talked about touched me, but a few things stood out. One of those things was the fact that the people we love are the fabric of our lives, and when they die, we find ourselves struggling to find our own identity. We don’t know who we are in this new life that doesn’t include them. That’s exactly how I feel, and hearing her say it out loud made me realize it’s not just me… it’s normal to feel this way.
We must remember that those of us left behind are an important part of our loved one’s legacy. It’s probably not by chance that a loss like this causes us to reexamine our priorities and our lives as a whole. What we’re doing. What we should be doing. What’s truly important, and what isn’t. The fact that life is short and we need to make the most of it. This experience has taught us things about ourselves that we never knew; those are the things we are meant to share with the world as we move forward.