It’s another season of sympathy and Christmas cards intermingling in the mailbox. Five years ago my momma went Home to Jesus on December twelfth. This year my husband’s dear mom, Eunice, passed on December second.
Five years ago my daughter and I were adjusting Momma in bed when I noticed she took her last breath. Two weeks ago I’d just sent my husband off to take a break from his bedside vigil and get some supper, when his mom took another turn. I was holding her hand when Jesus called her Home.
Five years ago we had a small, private memorial service as a compromise to my dad not really wanting anything. Dad loved Mom so much and had said his good-byes. That was enough for him. In fact, thinking about a big service seemed to add to his pain. But I felt a need to gather together and and talk about Mom and honor her life and Dad was ok with a private service for family, and a few friends that were like family to us.
This year the funeral service was public, but small because of Covid concerns, snowy and slippery roads, and the fact that Eunice was ninety-nine and had outlived all of her siblings and their spouses and many of her friends.
Her service was comforting and I think it honored her and God. We were grateful for each person who made the effort to be there with us, and for those who joined us online. In these risky times we didn’t blame anyone for not coming. In fact, I encouraged some friends to stay home.
But it made me think, as I sat in the beautiful sanctuary of the church that Eunice had served and worked in and attended for years, that the pews should somehow be filled with people, sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Decades ago Eunice had served as the Sunday School superintendent, when there were over three hundred children involved. And even into her retirement years, and all through her eighties, she had loved her Bible studies and her quilting group and had served in her ministry circle, taking her turns faithfully in the kitchen, baking cakes and serving for funerals and other events.
As long as her mind was strong enough she’d continued attending church every Sunday, putting her tithe envelope into the offering plate, singing with joy the hymns and worship songs, and donating her home quilted projects to the ladies’ craft sales.
The attendance at her funeral didn’t reflect all the love and ministry she’d poured out during her lifetime to her church, friends and relatives. But there have been sweet words of appreciation for Eunice in the cards, flowers and gifts. And we know she impacted many lives for the better.
It’s makes me think of those who’ve lost loved ones during the shut downs of Covid, when funerals weren’t allowed. Maybe some were like my Dad and were ok with that. But I imagine many missed a measure of healing that can be found in gathering to remember and grieve a loved one who has passed on.
This year reminds me of five years ago, as I write thank you notes for expressions of sympathy and address Christmas cards at the same time. A funeral bouquet stands elegantly on a table at one end of our living room and the Christmas tree glows cheerily at the other.
It’s hard to have a funeral anytime. And in some ways it may be harder in December. Yet, there is a comfort in the constant reminders of the holiday. The decorations all around us and the songs we sing celebrate the birth of Jesus.
And we know He came for the purpose of dying for our sins. And that because of this incredible truth we know our loved ones who have gone on before us and trust in Jesus are with Him now.
The attendance at the funeral was light. But I can imagine Eunice being greeted with delight and long hugs by her parents, sisters, friends, cousins, and her own daughter and husband. I can picture reunions with grandparents and old neighbors and school friends of days gone by. I hope she’s updating my own mom and dad about all their shared grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Well done, Eunice. My good and faithful servant.”
The goodbye service on earth was small, but I’m confident the welcome in heaven is overflowing and joyful. And will never end.