On Connection

As we try to make sense of our new reality, Paige Weston contemplates the meaning of memorial services, and how we can re-imagine the rituals that help us process the huge changes in our lives. May her musings be a help and a comfort to us on this journey. -Renée

The day after the graveside service for Lorna Engels I spoke with some of Lorna’s dearest friends: do we need a memorial service for Lorna in Champaign-Urbana, in addition to the graveside service we just had in Florence? What is the purpose of a memorial service? Covid complicates everything; could a memorial service serve its purpose if it were postponed until “after Covid”? What does “after Covid” mean? What will our community look like, feel like, after months of not-hugging bereaved friends and family, not to mention the months of not-hugging new parents and sweet-smelling infants, not-hugging brides and grooms, not-hugging friends we haven’t seen since last Friday?

As I said in preface to my prayer on June 28, it was a privilege for me to be at Lorna’s bedside during her final days. Here’s why: I was able to hear, as people spoke through my phone to Lorna, all the many different things Lorna’s friends loved about her. Nothing I heard surprised me: I already knew she was (in alphabetical order) an artist, committee chair, cook, friend, game-player, librarian, sister, traveler, and so on. What blessed me was to hear all the different ways people sorted this list, made sense of their friendship, chose their emphases, named their blessings. What I heard enriched my understanding of what it meant to our whole community that Lorna lived among us, and what it means, in general, to live well. I already knew I loved Lorna. What I learned was how other people loved her, and that knowledge strengthens my feelings of connection to people I haven’t seen in months and won’t see, let alone hug, for months more to come.

The purpose of a memorial service is to extend the privilege I experienced as I held my phone out toward Lorna. The purpose of a memorial service is to remember not Lorna (or Michael or David or Amy) but to remember who we are because of them. We can do that without gathering or hugging, we just have to be a little more creative and a little more intentional about it. Until we reach “after Covid,” may God strengthen in us the resolve to acknowledge, celebrate, and deepen our interdependence. May God bless us as we look for new ways to stay connected with each other.

In an hour I have a telephone meeting that, a year ago, I’d have attended in person. A few months ago I didn’t know what Zoom was, and neither did you. Yesterday I learned what others of you did already know: it’s possible to turn a legacy Facebook page into a memorial site. I just read another email about a postponed in-person NCF auction event. In the meantime, here we are, and here we are together. I thank God for that. I look forward to interacting with you, to learning from you what it means to live life well, in ways that haven’t even been invented yet. 

Paige Weston
18 August 2020
Service 8/16: Family Matters
Order of Service 8/16
Bulletin 8/16

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