bread and ashes

D--'s funeral was today. It was tough.

I don't often cry at funerals. I don't know why this is but it's true. Some years ago a good friend of mine, a volunteer in my church's youth ministry died of a massive heart attack while playing racquetball. He was 49. More then six hundred people attended his funeral. I think we all cried at that one. And I cried today. Sitting in the chancel waiting for my parts to come around, I kept looking over at D--'s husband in the front row with their son. His handkerchief was now in one hand, now in the other, but always dabbing at his eyes beneath his glasses. He tried to sing the hymns but couldn't get the words out. They stuck in my own throat as well.

Great is thy faithfulness O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with thee
Thou changest not thy compassions they fail not
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be

It was a simple service. A few flowers, nothing too ornate. The rosewood box with D--'s remains* placed between two pictures of her on the communion table, which had been moved down to the floor in front of the chancel. Will placed the communion elements there.

I broke even before the service began. Upon entering the sanctuary I joined a line of people inching toward the front to greet J-- and say their last respects to the pictures on the table. When it was my turn, J-- extended his hand. This time it was me pulling him into an embrace. "Thank you so much for everything," he whispered. I moved toward the communion table. And then J-- said the words that got to me. "Look," he said nodding toward the pictures. "She's smiling."

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