This week I attended my sister’s funeral service. It had been quite a challenge to organise, made more difficult with all the restrictions in place because of Covid 19.
We had planned a church service, where we expected quite a number to attend, followed by a cremation service and then the special time at the end when everyone gets to go down memory lane over coffee and food.
We wanted to give her the “send off” we felt she deserved. The day we visited the undertakers to make all the arrangements, these plans were put in place and we felt relieved that we had got in “just in time”.
Within a week everything had changed and bit by bit we watched our plans for this important day, be dismantled. Bit by bit we were losing our capacity to choose. It felt like circumstances were stacked against us. The virus and its impact had no regard for us.
We brought the day forward, concerned that if we waited, Judith could end up doing this part of her journey alone.
From then every small concession seemed like a victory and blessing. The number that could attend was reduced to 30. There would be no flowers allowed, we smiled, she didn’t need those, she was more beautiful than all the flowers in the world. There would be no pall bearers, no special limousines, we would have to sit 2m apart from each other. There would be no hugging, no shaking of hands, no special gathering afterwards to go down memory lane together. None of that mattered now, her family would be there. The important became the necessary. We were together.
Our world has changed overnight. Our plans have been dismantled and we have lost our capacity to choose. Circumstances are stacked against us and the virus has no regard for us. And it is teaching us what really matters.
And it isn’t the paraphernalia that we have become so accustomed to filling our lives with. The stuff and nonsense that takes up so much of our time and energy and thinking. It’s that we are together. And that is the victory, that is the blessing.
The power of the virus and the fear of it is intent on driving us apart and yet we have never been more together. Whether it is hundreds of people standing on a balcony in Brazil singing “Because HE lives I can face tomorrow”, or 500,000 volunteers signing up to support the NHS, people shopping for vulnerable neighbours, virtual house parties, churches reaching out online to bring hope and comfort, and so many more incredible initiatives and creative inventions to keep us connected. We have never noticed each other more than we are doing in this crisis.
After the funeral, we stood in the carpark, observing the 2m distancing rules, and we talked to each other, for over an hour. It had gone well. There were none of the normal frills and fancies and yet we felt victorious. This wasn’t what we had planned, but we were together.
We can face anything when we face it together. There is a famous quote that says it perfectly…
“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous. Love does not brag about one’s own achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best of others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving…above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run…”
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