Most people are uncomfortable talking about memorial services. Not me.
I’ve been planning my own memorial service since I was a teenager, with a particular interest in music selections. I’ve progressed from thinking I might like the Star Wars theme played to—more recently—thinking the song “I Lived” by OneRepublic might be good at my memorial.
One of the great satisfactions for me when I joined a church for the first time was knowing that when I died, my minister would lead my memorial service, and my fellow congregants would gather to mark my passing.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the kind of thing I talk about when people are considering joining the church. It isn’t the kind of thing people like to think about. But it’s still there, the reality of life and death. The day that Chalice voted to call me as your minister, one of you said to me, “You’ll lead my memorial service someday.” This aspect of ministry is a strange blessing and a heavy privilege.
Outside of religious community, people are often extremely uncomfortable around ministers. Telling someone I’m a minister often grinds conversation to an awkward halt. There may be a variety of reasons for this, but one possibility is that ministers are so much more present to dying and death than the rest of society, it makes people uncomfortable.
In talking about ministry, a friend once asked me, “Have you been in the room when someone has died?” “Yes,” I replied. There was no follow-up question, just a change of subject.
This discomfort around death and dying leads to a paucity of discussion about what we want to happen when we’re gone. When there’s a death, the family often doesn’t know what to do. They try to figure out something easy (“let’s just have something at home”) and then quickly realize how complicated that becomes (needing to rent chairs, a sound system, etc.). I am always so glad when people realize that what they really need is to have a service at church. Because having a memorial service at Chalice is one of the ways we take care of the grieving and make a difficult time easier. “Let us do it,” I want to say. “Let us take care of you.”
So…please let your family know that when the time comes, you want to have your memorial service at Chalice. It may seem obvious to you, but once you are gone, it is not always obvious to those left behind what to do. And if you would like to talk about your possible, someday, we-hope-it’s-far-in-the-future memorial service with me, please schedule a time to meet with me. As you know, I am happy to talk about that.
Bright blessings, Sharon