Monday, October 15, 2007

Love and Remembrance

On Sunday afternoon, I attended Mary Washington Hospice’s “Service of Love and Remembrance” at St. George’s Episcopal Church. Our church choir (where my husband sings tenor) was invited to perform, along with St. George’s choir, and I knew the music and service would be moving. The service is dedicated to the memory of hospice patients who have died over the course of the past year, and is an opportunity for their loved ones to come together to honor them. The words to the poetry and lyrics to the songs all spoke to the strength of love, even in death: You are not gone, you live within me, you’re here with me always, always a part of me. In a way, it seemed as if the whole service was intentionally designed to be sad, to give loved ones permission to grieve publicly. Americans are very squeamish about death and grief and mourning. After a few months, we want the bereaved to be back on their feet, getting on with life. We ask, “How are you doing?” but we want the answer to be, “I’m holding up, I’m hanging in there, I’m doing okay.” We certainly don’t want to see people falling apart, incapacitated by grief, unable to face the next day, because it frightens us to think we will be in the same situation someday and might be feeling those same things. So people who have lost a loved one learn to keep it inside when in public, to stifle the tears and give the pat answers. I think the purpose of this service was to give all of these people still deep in mourning just one time, one place, where it was still okay to be not okay.

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