The Sacred Work of Community Memorial Services

The longest portion of the service began with the reading of the names listed in the bulletin. I sat, listened, and walked forwarded with my friend to sprinkle rose petals by the picture of his wife when they called her name, all the while still wondering, Why attend another memorial service at a hospital chapel?

I was reminded of my visit to Trinity Church across the street from the World Trade Center a year after 9/11. Beholding the relics of rescue workers and walking past the historic pews that became makeshift beds in the tragedy's aftermath, I saw how the church had become a place to name those lost until a proper memorial at the World Trade Center grounds could be completed. I did not know any of the deceased personally, but as a citizen I felt compelled to be a witness, to take notice of the lives that were lost.

Like my experience in New York, by the end of this local community memorial service, I found myself profoundly moved and thankful that I could be present as a neighbor and fellow citizen to honor the losses of those grieving around me. Worshipping together enabled me to be a witness and to proclaim on behalf of our town and its citizenry, using the words of Lynch and Long: "Our kind was here. They lived; they died; they made their difference. We did right by them. They were not forgotten."

Although I did not know the seventy-five others who were remembered, I played a part in collectively naming loss on behalf of our community and in proclaiming that we will not be crushed or defined by loss. How we get to that hope will be our own path to take, but for that night in a quiet hospital chapel I could witness the weeping and hear the names read, and in some small way, attention was paid as Willy Loman's widow so longed for in The Death of a Salesman. Perhaps she needed a community-wide memorial service?

10/16/2014 4:00:00 AM