21 April 2008

The funeral

It was a cold, wet and muddy day that reminded me of Seattle. The feeling at the cemetery was somber, but also awkward. I'm a little bit out of sorts about the whole thing, disillusioned and angry. A therapist undoubtedly would tell me to not trouble myself about the entire situation since the only person I can change is myself. This is something I've learned first-hand since I grew up in a family that has seen a great deal of suffering and death. I know that people don't always make good choices, they do crazy things when confronted by tough circumstances, but there is a point when pragmatism comes right up against human decency and sensibility.

As I stood graveside I had a smattering of different feelings.

There were less than 15 people at graveside for the service, including the pastor and the funeral home representatives. As I got out of the car, I was greeted by the pastor who was dressed in a black suit and priest's collar. I knew he wasn't a priest and had reminded myself repeatedly of that. I don't think I've ever addressed a "man of the cloth" before that hasn't been a priest. But, as I shook his hand, I just instinctively said, "Nice to meet you, Fath...." I didn't correct myself, figuring that would just draw more attention to the slip.

As we stood in the slight rain, the pastor started the short service, which began, "In the name of the Father..." Of course, I instinctively blessed myself, as did my husband and son, which caused everyone else to follow suit and they blessed themselves too. I think it jarred the pastor because, as my husband told me years ago and also reminded me shortly after the service, Lutherans (along with most other Protestant groups) do not make the sign of the cross. It was amusing that my husband's family has become so secular that they didn't even know this wasn't a Lutheran thing to do.

As the pastor did the readings and his homily, my mind was wondering why he was standing there graveside. I have a difficult time understanding how a person who has read the bible can be Protestant, especially an educated pastor or minister. Scales on their eyes. As the pastor began his short homily, I found myself disagreeing with so much of what he said. According to him, God, upon her baptism, had claimed my husband's grandmother as His own and He would never leave her, implying that if you are baptized you cannot lose your salvation. Absolutely true about God's fidelity, but only partially complete. The entire Old Testament tells how God repeatedly gave the Israelites another chance and made covenants with them. God was always faithful to the covenants, it was the Israelites that broke the covenants and turned their back on God. Then he went on to say that my husband's grandmother was in Heaven. Not just maybe, or probably, but that she was seeing God face-to-face. Why do we even need the New Testament if Jesus' death, resulting in our subsequent salvation, is the period at the end of the sentence? What more could we possibly add to that?

Martin Luther has given people a way to rationalize bad behavior. Gone are the charitable acts of mercy, like visiting the sick and home bound. Instead, you can bring flowers to the grave and wipe your hands of it. Stand graveside and cry, but never have given the person a second thought when they were alive. My nephews and sister-in-law didn't even attend the service. They had tennis and hockey, to which my mother-in-law replied that she understood. What did she understand? The secular notion that gives people a pass to be self-absorbed? Even if you neglect acts of human kindness you're still going to Heaven, so why trouble yourself.

Hopefully, I will make it to Purgatory one day. I also hope Martin Luther is there just so I can smack him upside the head. The additional time spent in Purgatory would be well worth it. Heck, I might even kick him in the shins too.


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

I'm sure you'll have to stand in line to kick Luther in the shins, behind all his fellow Lutherans whom he led down the "rosey" path

Sanctus Belle said...

I have at time prayed for the soul of Martin Luther. We can't forget John Calvin and all the other revolutionaries who have led so many astray.

Love the story of the sign of the cross BTW! Good stuff!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

We're of to the cemetary on Sat to 'remember' my MIL. I will pray for her there. I sometimes wonder if since she died any of her friends and family have prayed for her. All Church of England or United Reformed-I guess they never have.
There seems to be only me. Shocking really.

God bless you. The whole Luther/Calvin revolt has caused so much damage.

swissmiss said...

I do lack the virtue of patience, but think I could muster standing in line behind the poor Lutherans in order to get my chance to kick him in the shins...that is if there is anything left of him by then.

Sanctus and WSNS:
Yes, it was so apparent the damage that has been done when I stood there in the cemetery. It was a bit illuminating and painful. My SIL is Calvinist and she and my brother and their sons live in Switzerland, so I have that strange breed of cat to deal with too.

And, this was the third of three funerals I've been to on hubby's side where the pastor has said, "Well, I never had the pleasure of meeting [the deceased], but I've heard lovely stories about them." Oh my goodness.

Terry Nelson said...

You need me in your family to make these things more bearable for you.

swissmiss said...

Oh my. LOL! Definitely a case of be careful what you wish for, although you could give these guys a run for their money. As you probably can tell, there is a great deal going on behind the scenes, weird family dynamics, that I didn't go into. They are good people, my husband's family, just all over the place in nearly every situation. Hard to see things coming some times!

Adrienne said...

The sad thing about saying with certainty that someone is in heaven is that now no one feels the need to pray for them.

Tara said...

I like when you crossed yourselves. It is very hard to understand anyone who has read the Bible stating that all you have to do is just "believe" and you are saved--when God makes it very clear that you must "Abide" in Him--after all Satan just "believed" in Jesus and we all know where he is.

And not showing up to pay last respects because you had to engage in sports?--it's all about me generation--your mother-in-law saying she understood--I'm sure she must have been very sad at their lack of caring--oh, sigh.

Mary Rose said...

I just discovered your blog from doing some surfing. (Sancte Pater links to you) Oh, my. I loved your sentiment toward Martin Luther. I am in complete agreement with your thoughts, too.

I'm returning to the Catholic church after being gone for many years. One of the things I love about Catholicism is the emphasis on sacrifice. My mom (God rest her soul) would happily bop me on the head if she thought I was being too self-absorbed. I thank God for giving me such a wise mom.

Hang in there with the in-laws. You're salt and light to them. :-)

swissmiss said...

Adrienne and Tara:
Exactly. Very sad.

Mary Rose:
Welcome to my blog! My parents, too, would never have allowed me to be self-absorbed. My mother (God rest her soul, too) and her family are the most charitable people I know. My aunt, who will be 83 in a few weeks, is constantly running around visiting shut-ins and helping out where ever she is needed. She is ALWAYS thinking of others and giving of herself. Something you don't see so much today.