A Farewell With Joy

Generally speaking, most farewells are laced with sadness, a joylessness brought about by occasions such as moving away, changing jobs, retiring and most especially when the farewell is final, a funeral. This does not always have to be so.
But to avoid the nearly inevitable likelihood of depression at such events there has to be a determination to make the occasion a time for celebratory joy even when the happening is to be a final departure, a ‘going home’ affair. Left to its ‘normal’ state of being, such a farewell would more often than not lack any sign of happiness except as in this case for prior deliberative planning to the contrary. Such was the service for the First Lady of Hillside. (This column was originally written September 24, 2008.)
The setting was fittingly the First Presbyterian Church in Dillon. While there is no building that would fit the perfect definition of a place of “holy awe” still there are elements at this church that surely add to the special religious feeling. The church has all the necessary architectural details that seemingly reflect things spiritual. The purity of its walls, the loftiness of its ceiling, the stability and sturdiness offered by the generous pews all point to things holy. The auditorium is not as grand and spacious as some, but its size does produce a sense of intimacy for worshipers.
As befitting the departed, the pews were filled with friends who were clearly respectful of the place; still there was a sense of community as reflected by the quietly animated exchanges of greetings. Dressed for the occasion, the congregation seemed to have contradictorily come both with a sense of sorrow and yet filed with a kind of happiness even for such a meeting of the faithful. Unlike similar meetings, there were no overt signs of grief such as crying. The meeting was fully Presbyterian, decently and in order.
The order of worship, evidently carefully preplanned, included several solos of the hymns of yesterday and even one congregational rendering, the near-all time favorite for such an event, “Amazing Grace.” The pipe organ added a sense of majesty to the occasion.
The minister offered a selection of familiar scripture that was more than just reading, his cadence seemed like he was expressing something heartfelt. His remarks revealed that he was a close friend of the one being honored. He quoted frequently her remarks, two of which were: make it short and make it a happy occasion, He did both.
Generally the minister delivers the principal eulogy but in this case, personal remarks were addressed by one of her long-time friends who spoke somewhat extemporaneously about his neighbor of many years. He admitted that his remarks were not only about the deceased but also must include comments about her beloved husband who, with her had once been an integral part of the community, helping, as he put it, to make Dillon another Camelot.
His remarks although respectful, added a sense of levity to the occasion as he spoke of events in her life that most worshipers recognized with a nod of the head.A woman of quiet wit, intelligence and grace, she had her last wishes granted by the presence of her many friends and family in a rather subdued but somewhat joyful atmosphere, just what she wanted.
“When fades at length our lingering day,
Who cares what pompous tombstones say?
ead on the hearts that love us still.” —O.W. Holmes
Bill Lee
PO Box 128

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