As we prepare this Sunday to remember the saints who have died in the past year, thoughts and prayers are with the those whose grief is still fresh, especially as we approach the coming holiday season. First anniversaries, first family gatherings without our dear ones can bring on renewed pain, and that pain can show up again year after year. As one of our own saints, Fran Elizarde, told me repeatedly, “grief doesn’t really go away, but it does change.”
If any of us have ever been told that it’s time to “move on,” Lord, have mercy. For those of us who face the coming season with varying degrees of trepidation, may this weekend’s observance remind us that we need not face it alone. Whether it is our first, fifteenth, or fiftieth year of mourning, may there be comfort found not in attempting to erase or ignore the pain, but in honestly recalling the love that was lost, a gift that deserves to be remembered.
While leading memorial services can be a more difficult part of this profession, it is always an invitation to draw close to rich wisdom that has been handed down from generation to generation. Sager souls than I have stood at the bedside, the graveside, and the emergency ward, meeting death whether anticipated or not, whether welcomed or not. And thanks be to God these sages have seen fit to write down some words to help guide the rest of us through these repeated moments of grief.
So as we prepare for this coming Sunday and the coming season, I offer you a prayer found in the service of committal in theThe United Methodist Book of Worship. While intended to be prayed at a grave or interment site, I find it can be offered again and again as we both hold and release our dear ones in(to) God’s eternal care.
Eternal God, you have shared with us the life of _______.
Before ______ was ours, ______ is yours.
For all that [he/she/they] has given us to make us what we are,
for that of [him/her/they] which lives and grows in each of us,
and for [his/her/their] life that in your love will never end,
we give you thanks.
As now we offer _______ back into your arms,
comfort us in our loneliness,
strengthen us in our weakness,
and give us courage to face the future unafraid.
Draw those of us who remain in this life closer to one another,
make us faithful to serve one another,
and give us to know that peace and joy which is eternal life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.