Thursday, October 28, 2010

Faith, Hope, Love

You are going to laugh at this (or, if you aren't, you should) but Jane and I had "crashed" a funeral just a couple of months before Jane's unexpected death. My reasoning went something like this: Mormon churches, like churches of many other faiths, are basically open to the general public, for whatever functions may be held there. (This would be "church" as in where we meet to worship on the Sabbath, as distinct from "the temple," which is not even open on the Sabbath.) And I was going anyway-- I knew the husband of the woman who had died well enough to feel like I ought to attend the funeral no matter what, so this was really just a matter of whether or not to bring Jane with. And I knew that a good Mormon funeral is actually a great way to get a feel for the best bits of Mormon family life, and I wanted very much for Jane to get that feel-- I felt like she would learn things from attending that funeral that she wouldn't be able to get in any other way.

It turned out that I was right. The funeral WAS wonderful-- I nearly blogged about it as "the best funeral I have ever attended," but I wanted to respect the privacy of the family, and decided against it. I will say this much: it was the funeral of a woman who had lived approximately twenty years beyond expectation: she had been diagnosed with a disease, shortly after the birth of her first (and, as it happened, only) child, and she had been told that the disease could take her life within that year. But it did not. Though she was not able to have more children, and from that time forward lived in nearly constant, severe pain, she was able to live long enough to raise her son, see him graduate from high school, and send him on a mission. He was not at the funeral-- he was in his assigned field of labor-- but as it happened, the assigned field of labor was very close to his mother's ancestral home (where she was buried), and he received special permission to go to her grave site and be the one to dedicate the grave.

And the words spoken at her funeral! Her mother spoke-- she spoke too long, and had to be asked to sit down, but it turned out OK. Her sister spoke, describing a sister-mother who had sacrificed much for her. Her husband spoke, and this was one of the most moving talks I have ever been witness to. He quoted poetry, first in German and then in English, and he wept as he described how their "dream deferred" of having a large family had caused a sadness between them-- but how in the end they decided (somehow-- I'm describing this badly) to let the sadness go, and let hope flare up again.

The funeral went a little long, and as I drove her home, Jane was on the phone with a friend of hers whose daughter was having difficulty, and whom Jane was trying to help out. She was still on the phone as she was getting out of the car. I asked: how was it? She told her friend on the phone to wait a minute as she talked to me. "I want a man who loves me like that," she said. I agreed, and agree.

There is a part of me that wants to shout: But what happened? The man who killed you-- why did you let him back into your house, into your life? Why didn't you tell me you had a restraining order against him, way back last spring when you first mentioned him to me? Was it too embarrassing? Was I-- was my manner such that you just couldn't, that I was judgmental, that I'm just not a person who can handle that information? Dear God, O God, how I wish I could turn back time and look into your eyes again and say one more time: you are worth being treated well. You are worthy of love, even unemployed, even dark-black as you sometimes thought so poorly of yourself for being, even with imperfect children and an imperfect church attendance record and with so many people surrounding you who questioned your every decision.

Oh, how I miss you. I have been buoyed up by the love of God in a remarkable way which is far above and beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life before, and I know that it has been in direct response to my need for comfort over your death-- but, beloved sister, I wish every day, EVERY DAY, that you were not dead. I miss you terribly. The girls miss you terribly. Your baby-- I pray for all of your family, but I pray especially for him. No seven-year-old should have to bear the burdens he is compelled to bear. And when I keep thinking in a loop about how I wish I could do over-- wish I could persuade more persuasively, ask peskier questions, something-- the one thing I never regret is listening to every inclination to be friends with you. What a comfort you were to me, what a true friend.


Day said...


SAC said...


(=two-year-old-ese for "thank you"; translation not for Day's benefit, but for others less conversant in two-year-old-ese)