Writing Last Things First
I wrote my obituary first thing today. Well, a lot of it. I’ve been helping people write their parents’ obituaries, and it can be hard going in the midst of grief, to remember the awards the parent won, or when he or she was in the service, or where he or she was born. Plus, it can be fraught with complication, as people are raw when they are grieving, and years of emotion can flood and cloud family things. We are not easy creatures to understand, we can be vexing in the best of times, add a dose of parental loss, and much can come unglued.
So, I wanted to put my obit in a file. And, in that file, things I love for a funeral. I get a bit teary-eyed as I write that I’d like Psalm 126 read. I love Psalm 126, and in a desperate season in my life, I held onto it like a life raft. In my mind, and in my early morning prayers, I always mingled Psalm 126 with some of my favorite Shakespeare lines from The Tempest, which were given to me by my learned church youth director, the Rev. Mark Ramsey, when I was in high school:
Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy, then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them,’
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices,
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
That if I then had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
The clouds methought would open and show riches
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.
I cried to dream again.
(Psalm 126 and The Tempest, 3.2.142-155)
When asked to name this blog, I struggled, I find titles difficult. Hmmmm….Something catchy, something clever? Something flashy? Something short and sweet? An acronym? I wrote and rewrote possible titles. Finally I decided on this: Transient. Short, sweet, and telling.
We are all transients, whether we want to be or not. We are here for a moment, then gone. If you travel deep into the Grand Canyon, down layer by layer, you’ll remember how transient we are. Go to a nursing home. Look through a family photo album. We’re all passing through. In a good way.
It’s like we have a ticket to see an amazing art exhibit, and we can visit it between these hours, say 2 to 4pm, and if we didn’t arrive to see it, well, that’s the extent of our ticket, it’s what was paid for, no refunds. That’s life, we have this span, we know when the clock started, but we don’t know when the art exhibit closes for us, for each of us, because our tickets are all different. But here we are, showing up, to see the exhibits daily, in our lives, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Lucky us. Lucky transient us.
Obit Template, should you need to write one