samedi, décembre 16, 2006

Blessed are the dead

This was the first time I'd attended the lighting of the memorial tree. A few years ago one of our board members, an energetic ball of fire who is a genius at fundraising, thought of lighting a holiday tree as a way of raising money for our Romanian kids who live with, and die from, the effects of AIDS. Standing outside the home of a friend on an eeriely warm evening, we struggled to see the words of the liturgy. Knowing that I was to give the closing prayer, I attempted to follow along in the dim light of the tiny flashlights. When we got to the prayers for the dead, I saw a name I had not expected. "No one told me Bertha had died," I thought sadly. A parishioner at my former church, Bertha was a librarian for the choir. A tiny, bird-like woman, she had big glasses and a bright smile. Because Bertha's sister in law Eleanor was not able to attend church, I had many occasions to visit them. Sitting in their neat living room, we'd exchange conversation on church matters, health issues, my work and other topics-with my short skirts and unorthodox manners, I came into their quiet lives like a minor tempest. But we grew to appreciate each other. When Eleanor died, I missed those moments of grace in Bertha's living room. Now Bertha was gone-and I had not had the opportunity to mourn. So permit me to grieve a moment now. Bertha, you are missed-for all the work you did organizing the music, work that is not undertaken by those who prefer the glow of public acclaim, but by those who see a job that needs to be done and do it. For the uncomplaining way in which you dealt with your physical challenges in your latter years. For your faithful care for your sister in law. For the servant leadership you brought to each task before you. A childless widow, you may not be remembered often on this earth. But I am sure that you are celebrated in the celestial choir-blessed indeed are the dead who die in the Lord. Godspeed, dear Bertha.

2 commentaires:

Catherine + a dit…

Dear Elizabeth+

What a truly beautiful and deeply poignant piece. This time of year is difficult for anyone who had known this sort of loss, whether friend, comrade in Christ, or, in my case, a parent who always made Christmas time special for her children.

I know my mom is in a celebrated place too, with Bertha and Eleanor...and everyone of the saints...just know someone understands the shock and still the appreciation for the unsung "heroes" of our faith.

May you know peace and silent joy this season.



Val a dit…

Lovely remarks, and a reminder to us all that someone else's loved one can touch our hearts as much as our own dear departed. I did not know of Bertha's passing either, until the Wednesday before the tree lighting, when a message came through with a donation. I am truly sorry for not having alerted you (yet again) to the older friends who slip away more often than we are prepared for.

Thanks for the musing on the tree, life, and passing into another life.