September 15, 2014


I headed to my childhood hometown this weekend for yet another memorial service.  The frequency of memorial services in my life as of late is something with which I'm struggling.

This one was a family cousin, who was in the Autumn of his life and had lived a big, full life working full-time 'til 82 years old -- living at home 'til just six weeks before his death at 85. It was sad, but also joyful.  My mother couldn't come, so I acted as the family ambassador and interacted with many relatives I hadn't seen in 5 or 10 years.  I felt so welcome and loved.

I felt so alive.  (I also interacted with members of my mother's family in a way that made me question much of the family lore I've been fed, but that's a thought for another discussion...)

Upon sitting at the ceremony, I realized that I hadn't been to a church service in the Lutheran Church in a very long time.  Catholic?  Yes.  Similar, but not the same.  And for the Lutherans, it's actually been so long that they'd changed the text of some of the prayers I'd had to memorize to be confirmed.  CRAZY.

I went up to the pastor after the service and asked him what had happened to the text, and, well, I'm pretty sure he was thrilled.  I think I made his year. 

Apparently, if you are a Lutheran pastor, it's a rare event when you officiate a funeral and someone comes up after the fact and wants to talk about the translations from the original Latin into American English and why it used to be "X" and now is "Y".  He was *extra* thrilled to learn that I was family of the deceased, raised in a not-too-far away Lutheran church that he was familiar with.  Interestingly, he didn't ask any questions or push when I self-identified as having been "raised Lutheran, but haven't been to church in at least a decade."  He just asked where I lived now without mentioning anything about the local Lutheran options and thanked me for coming to pay my respects, confirming that my cousin Sam is the bee's knees.

The whole service, the return to the Church of my childhood, the reciting of prayers and singing of hymns (which I did in honor of the deceased) and, of course, the soul-quieting incantation of Psalm 23, all combined to make me feel that all was right in the world.  Even in the midst of death.

Recently, I learned through facebook that a high school acquaintance of mine had overdosed unexpectedly.  I hadn't spoken with her since graduation, but apparently, the news was a shock to everyone.

And, due to the memorial in my hometown, I ended up near where I was raised at the same time as another best friend from childhood (R) as she came into town to mourn her grandfather.  A third best friend (D) lives there and hosted me for a much-needed girls' night dinner on Friday and then all three of us for a get-together with their kids on Saturday AM.  It was the first time we've all been together since R's wedding, 3+ years ago.  Magical.

So, yeah.  I'm feeling very alive.  Nothing like the presence of death to highlight your lack of it.

And, it was a step-back week, running-wise.  I drank too much, had a cigarette in solidarity, and ate skirt steak over marinated artichokes and cream on Friday night while catching up with D.  But, I still managed 35.87 miles total, and most of my assigned workouts.  Marathons will be happening.  So, here I am, feeling, very grateful to be so alive (if not very fast).


Arvay said...

This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing!

L.A. Runner said...

My husband and I lost 3 grandparents in the span of 3 months. It was really rough, but I agree that it renews an appreciation of life.

I'm very sorry for your loss, but glad you were able to reflect on life and religion and come away in peace.

And yes, the marathon and running will always be there. No worries.