Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Memorial Service

The Quakers I know don't have funerals; they have memorial services, often some time after the person has died.

Judy suffered from a cancer that ate away the right side of her face; she bore it all with great courage, went on about her business "fighting for peace", and for all the good causes she had embraced, and loving a great number of people in a very personal way.

She died a couple of weeks ago, and we held her Memorial Service at the Meeting House yesterday afternoon. Just about everybody who belonged to the Meeting was there.

About half the people there had something to say about Judy, all complimentary and many quite moving. One man, with great emotion, told how Judy had helped him reestablish his life after he had given up hope.

This was not a sad occasion, but a victory celebration. There were some funny stories about Judy. I'm going to share one that I heard with great appreciation.

"Judy lived in an upper floor of a condo. She had a cat who had lived with her for many years and was very gentle. But the cat loved to go up on the roof to survey the scene.

"On one occasion there was a visitation of birds who had left droppings all over the tin roof of the place. Judy was sitting by her window looking out when something flashed by the window on a downward course.

"Judy thought "oh my gosh" and flew downstairs to see if her cat was still alive. She find it standing there, calmly washing herself as cats do.

"Judy was like that cat in one respect; she had taken many hard blows, but maintained a beautiful level of poise and spirit through it all."

Many people confess a fear of death, but I've never observed that among the Quakers I've known; I think it's probably because they all lived pretty good lives.


david said...

They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill, what never dies. Nor can Spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the Root and Record of their Friendship. If Absence be not death, neither is theirs. Death is but Crossing the World, as Friends do the Seas; They live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is Omnipresent. In this Divine Glass, they see Face to Face; and their Converse is Free, as well as Pure. This is the Comfort of Friends, that though they may be said to Die, yet their Friendship and Society are, in the best Sense, ever present, because Immortal. (William Penn)

Larry said...

That is super-beautiful, David. Unfortunately it's just the thing that Ellie missed in Judy's service. Only a couple of us mentioned that death is not the ultimate.

The FGC Quakers on the East Coast, especially the ones I've encountered are notably silent about it. For all their beautiful souls they seem to have an inability to face a reality beyond worldly life. I was pretty liberal when I joined the Friends in 1983, but now I find myself constantly calling the Friends' attention to our Christian source.

david said...

In Canadian Yearly Meeting a memorial minute is recorded in the meeting minutes, read at the memorial meeting, and entered into the Yearly Meeting minute records.

The title of the minute refers to the grace of God in the life of ...

The theory at least is that we do not remember the people who have died so much as the grace of God that shone through their lives.