A Memorial Service Homily: “Remembering the Love”

by Rev. Vicki Joy McClure, MAPM, BCC

June 2008

Rev. Vicki Joy McClure

Every quarter, the hospital where I work has a memorial service in honor of those who have died at the hospital in the last months. It is a time when families and friends come together in a small auditorium for a short ritual remembering of their loved one who is no longer with them in body.

One of my favorite parts of this service is when each person is given the opportunity to stand in front of the others and give voice to who their loved one was and what meaning they gave (and still give) to the speaker’s life. It is a time when those of many races and faith traditions can come together and hear one another speak out of pain and love. I’ve experienced it as a time like no other—when race, religion, creed and color no longer separate, because we are all united by the Love as well as by the wrenching pain that is associated with profound loss.

The following is a homily that I gave at the most recent memorial service.

“Hello. My name is Vicki Joy, and I’m a chaplain here. I recognize some of your faces from when your loved ones were hospitalized. I’m glad you all came tonight.

How many of you are here because you’ve lost someone special and want to celebrate and honor their memory tonight?  So we all have something in common. We all love deeply, and hurt deeply because our loved one is no longer here with us in the way to which we’d grown accustomed.

We’re all here tonight because we believe that life is more than this flimsy skin and bones. We’re all here because we believe that love extends beyond this physical being. We want tonight to reconstruct, to re-member those who are no longer with us in their bodies. As we are present with each other tonight, we can find the inner strength that comes when we share something deep and meaningful and tender with others who are going through similar pain.

In case you didn’t already know it, the emotions that come when somebody you love dies are not always recognizable as grief. Sometimes you feel disbelief. You may find yourself still looking for your loved one …and sometimes even “see” him or her in a crowd, or hear that wonderful voice. Sometimes you feel irritated or depressed or guilty. Sometimes, you feel numb, or even like you might be going crazy. Sometimes you may even feel hatred, betrayal, or a sense of abandonment.

Grief is like a tidal wave that picks you up and tosses you around and bumps you into unidentifiable surfaces, and then casts you out onto an unfamiliar beach, devastated. And just when you think you might be recovering, the wave sweeps over you again.

Sometimes you think that no one in the whole world, the whole world, could ever have felt this kind of agony. And yet we’re all here, together, because we have all loved and lost and are suffering from it.

And that means we’re not alone.

So whatever you’re feeling right now, just notice it and allow it to be.

You’ve been through a lot. Love is all around us, in the disguise of all these feelings. All of these feelings you’re having since your loved one died are because you LOVE so deeply.

Tonight, let us recognize that we don’t hurt alone. We can allow ourselves time to share memories and tears with others who also know love and how it hurts. And we can cling to the assurance that as we re-member our loved ones by stating again how they lived and changed our lives JUST BY BEING, death will not have the final word.

Shall we pray?

We thank you, God, for your loving trust in us. In creation, you first clothed us in dignity; called us not things, but daughters and sons, and said that we were very good. And you love us and promise never, never, never to leave us or disown us.

Today, in all of our frailty, sadness, and groping in this seeming darkness; in doubt, in love, in feeble hope, we stand in your presence—not lifted from what is human, but as we truly are: the work of your loving hands. We stand God-touched and frail, yet possessing the dignity that your acceptance of us and presence with us gives to us.

Give courage and faith to us in our sadness, that we may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy and joyful hope of eternal reunion with those we love.

Help us, we pray, in the midst of the sting of brokenness and death, to believe and trust in your loving presence and forgiveness, in the goodness of true fellowship of others who believe, and in new life that springs from death.

We pray these things in adoration, gratitude, and awe. Amen.