It's been a crazy week. My colleague was out of town for 5 days, my husband was gone for a couple, and another staff member was out as well. We had a funeral today, my son has a cold, and my daughter seems to still be recovering from the schock of having Will's entire family show up for the weekend without prior notice (I couldn't count on her to keep a secret). But tomorrow is my day off, and I am thankful.
It always amazes me how draining funerals are, even when I don't know the deceased (which has been the case a few times at ECLC, since I'm relatively new). Family dynamics, the importance of the occasion and, I suppose, my own dis-ease with mortality make it quite tiring.
I've been thinking this week about the "occasional" events which are the primary contact a vast swath of our society has with the church -- namely weddings and funerals. Martin Marty recently quoted a piece from Miss Manners about the epidemic of "personalizing" that goes on at weddings. She suggests, rightly, I think, that weddings really ought not to be about the couple. They are about entering into something bigger than yourself, a path that has been trod by generations before us. (This is true even if God isn't in the picture, but even more so when we purport to have a Christian wedding). The same could be said of funerals, only more so. Which isn't to say that we don't remember the distinctiveness of the individual in some way -- we do. But especially in the midst of grief we need to let that distinctiveness give way to a message of God's enduring faithfulness and love which is bigger than anything that one person had to offer.
In wedding planning it is often convenient to gently suggest that some music, some jokes, some quirky expression of individuality be reserved for the reception. It would be nice if our society gave enough time to grief so that we could do the same thing with funerals. Nice long wakes are the perfect place for the funny stories and remembrances of our beloveds' indiosyncracies. Unfortunately, most people in this country aren't given that much time to grieve.