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Inspiration: The obituary isn't enough

At Our Savior’s, we probably have had an unprecedented number of funerals in a very short period of time.

Our church family sorrowed, with some members losing more than one loved one in that time. For me as pastor, it was difficult to watch the amount of energy that this grief required. It was difficult to have very little time to experience the loss of my parishioner when another funeral was already being planned. It was difficult to find time to check with grieving families when funerals came in a wave that didn’t crest for quite a while. It was difficult.

With funeral planning comes obituaries. I remember my mother’s obituary being approximately 19 lines; 19 lines to sum up 69 years of life. How did those 19 lines do? They had a tough job. Those 19 lines contained the names of my deceased father, her parents’ names, the names of her children and grandchildren, the names of her siblings. Those lines contained the fact that she was well-loved.

There was no room for the names of her lifelong friends, living and dead. There was no room for the precious notes and inspiration she held in her wallet. There was no room to explain the joy in our lives that we would never have known if God had not given her to us. There was no room for the thankfulness we carry for a life that spoke volumes about love — the love which 19 lines could not begin to retell.

The last three lines of those 19 gave directions to the funeral home and the church at which the funeral would be held. It turns out that those last three lines were the most important. That’s where so many people who loved Eileen Grinere gathered to remember, to cry, to hold one another, to tell the stories, to be sad and angry and comforted. Those last three lines directed us to just what we needed in our grief and hurt.

Now, as a church leader entrusted with presiding at funeral services, I know that 19 lines in a newspaper do not do justice to the loss and the experience of that loss. We Christians are a gathering bunch. We gather in the name of Jesus whose death and resurrection remind us — like nothing else can — that our grief is real; that our loss is deep; that our loved one mattered and always will; and that we can trust our grief to the God who keeps promises.

And then we are reminded by Jesus that eternity is a long time to be together. Thanks be to God!