I had a funeral today. The death was actually two weeks ago, but since the deceased was being cremated anyway and I had a scheduled vacation last week, the family decided to wait until today to have the memorial service. It gave their family time to come without a big rush, too. I never really knew the woman who died in the fullest sense. She lived with Alzheimer's disease the entire time I've been here. She and her husband have been married for almost 67 years and have known each other for 72. A. maz. ing.
The service itself wasn't too out of the ordinary. I read from Romans 8 with the promise that NOTHING separates us from the love of God - - not even Alzheimer's I wanted to add. I also read Psalm 139:1-12. This woman, like God as the psalmist describes, was a detail woman. Everything in its place. Everything done very carefully. Everything organized out of love and attention and compassion. I heard in the psalm on this occasion about God who pays attention to every detail. God who knows all about us, where we're going, where we're coming from, what we're going to say. God knows when we have ascended to the pinnacle of joy and when we have been buried in the depths of despair. God pays attention to detail. I also heard that even the darkness of memory loss isn't too dark for God.
Anyway, if I may say so myself, I brought all I had to this service, and preached the word and shared the comfort of faith. Besides what I brought there was beautiful music, violin, tenor, organ, piano. It was a fitting memorial and just felt right.
But even with all we did, we weren't the best part. I was going to say "maybe we weren't the best part" to fit the NaBloPoMo theme, but frankly I know we weren't the best part. The best part came after the benediction. The widower had it all planned out last week before I even went on vacation. Parked just outside the church building, right outside the front door was his Cadillac Escalade golf cart. I kid you not. When the service was over he had me announce his intentions and ask everyone to line the church sidewalks. He put the box of his wife's remains in the passenger seat, flipped the switch on the tape player (it started with "America, the Beautiful"), buckled his seat belt, and pulled out into the parking lot.
He told me it would be just one spin around the parking lot, taking his wife for one last ride. He had bought this "golf cart" last spring to drive her around town, by the home she lived in as a little girl, by the school she attended, the park where she used to eat picnic lunches. It was the world of the 1930s, the world she tended to inhabit in her own mind. The weather hadn't been good enough this spring yet to drive her around, so he said at her memorial he would take her for one last ride.
I'll admit it seemed a little hokey to me at first, and I wasn't the only one sort of grinning about his one cart parade. I don't think we were being disrespectful; we were all supporting him in what he wanted to do. it just...well... it's hard to describe. But anyway, as he completed his lap around the parking lot the congregation applauded as he drove back up the drop off circle, expecting, as he told me, that he would park and we'd go in to eat lunch. But he didn't stop. He mouthed to his daughter, "One more time," and stepped on the gas. We all laughed and cheered a little, started to clap along with his tapping toe to the big band music that started up when the patriotic tunes had ended.
The scene repeated itself about 4 or 5 more times. Every time we thought he'd pull in, he say again with a tip of his head and a few tears in his eye, "One more time." The funeral director, in awe, said, "Who knows what's going on in his head." I felt, though, that maybe I knew. When this ride was finally over, their ride would be over. It was both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. Or maybe it was heart breaking because it was sweet. I just ached for this man who so obviously loved his wife, who had lost her in bits and pieces over the last 7 years or so, and who finally had to end their ride today. When we all eventually gathered inside the funeral director said to me, "I only hope I'm half the husband he has been."
I think he can be. I think I can be half the wife. I think we were shown the way to do it today as this widower drove in his golf cart. "One more time." Don't be in a rush. Don't move to quickly on to the next thing. Savor the perfect moments and when they're good, when they're really good go ahead and take one more time.