Last weekend was pretty crazy, not least because of two memorial services waaaay in the South Bay, which is a long way for me now that I live waaaay in the far north corner of Contra Costa County. But they were both lovely for very different reasons.
One was for a family member, my mom's first cousin, which either makes him my cousin once removed or my second cousin, I can never remember, even though that seemed to make up a good chunk of Thanksgiving Dinner conversation almost every year we got together. My mom told a very touching story at the service about how she would play pick-up sticks at the family cabin when she was a girl of maybe 6 or so. Her cousin, then a teenage boy and as ever ten years her senior, would join her. As my mom said, "I don't know many teenage boys who would do that, much less with a little twerp like I was." But that if he were alive, and if the both of them could still manage to lower themselves to the floor, my mom bet her cousin would still be willing to do that. Very lovely. And I bet he would, too.
The other was for a woman I had never met. I got a call to do the service at 9:30 am on a Sunday, a time when most priests already have a regular gig. So I got to go down to Filoli Gardens to preside at a service for a gardener and rose lover in the gardens before they opened. It was just magical, very Alice in Wonderland, with the large formal gardens, all the roses in bloom (surprisingly abundant) and these wooden doors through archways in brick walls. And although we used the other anthem, I couldn't help but be reminded of the phrase "In the midst of life we are in death," but to find it not scary at all in the context of a garden. I thought of death as being uprooted, but being planted again, a process I know well from my own limited gardening. Most often I replant things because I have indeed found a better place for them. It gave new meaning to a phrase from Isaiah that we heard in the service: "They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory."
It always amazes me how lovely funerals can be. I'd take a funeral over a wedding any day of the week.