And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
On Monday, August 30, 2010, I officiated my first funeral at The Lutheran Church of the Covenant. It was an end to a stressful week in which I had at one point seven people hospitalized. The lady whom I buried was 91 years old and had been in deteriorating health for quite some time. I first visited her one month into my call at Covenant. She wanted to meet so that, in her words, “I could go ahead and bury her.”
But over the course of time we had wonderful visits and I grew quite fond of her. As she lay in the hospital I reflected on my own mother and her final days. Her two adult children were able to take her home, where she died early Thursday morning. Both of them were admirably well composed throughout the dying, the arrangements, the viewing, the service at the church, and the committal at the cemetery.
It was a fabulous service with four traditional hymns: “Abide With Me,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” and “How Great Thou Art.” Another parishioner also sang “The Navy Hymn” as a solo. I preached from the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, highlighting that as God’s people, we want to be where God is (see the text above).
It is in situations like this that I give thanks again to God for my mother because, in dying, she made me a better pastor. She prepared me. Going through that experience has helped me to accompany others in their grief. I am not detached or indifferent to their emotions because I KNOW what they are going through. My compassion is genuine and hopefully gives comfort to those who mourn. It is a gift my mother has given me and it keeps on giving, to use a cliché.
I thank you again, Mother, for all you were and all you continue to be.