It struck me that the single encounter theory I have obsessed over for decades can be applied to exceptional moments we’ve had with our loved ones. When it comes to eulogizing them we figure the wild and crazy remembrances might not be appropriate to disclose in a sanctuary.
During my first years in ministry most funerals and memorial services were somber and serious with perhaps a tiny bit of humor. Times have changed but pastors never quite know what will be fitting. I always wanted to push the envelope, especially in my retirement years. What can they do to me now; I’ve got my pension?
While preparing a eulogy for a memorial service recently for special family I decided to push things up a notch and ask the family members if they can recall some outrageous scenarios of their deceased loved one that might be included in the service.
“OK,” daughter, Kim, said “I’ll come up with some zany accounts but I would like you to read them and not me.”
“It’s a deal,” I replied “and I will do my part by telling a candid family story that I wish I had had the nerve to reveal at my mother’s memorial service.”
I never forgot the day my feeble mother was near death with breast cancer at the age of 39. She was known as our extended family comedienne. I was sixteen and eager to drive, anywhere and anytime. She asked me to pick up a package at a dress shop and I panicked.
“Oh, mom, don’t make me go to a dress shop, please!”
“It’s OK” she assured me. “It will be in a bag and all you need to do is go up to the register and ask for it. It has been pre-paid.”
I circled the store five times before parking and entering the shop with an elevated heartbeat. I walked in trying to appear confident and cool. Three sales women were behind the counter. The one in the middle smiled and asked “Are you Buzzy?”
I just stood there sweating. “Yes, I am, ma’am.”
All three just stood there and grinned. Finally one of them reached into a sack and held up a medically devised bra. That would be a brassiere back then. I ran up to the salesclerk, grabbed it and got out of there.
My mother had telephoned the store manager and asked her to have fun with her son. She died a few weeks after that excruciating day.
Kim, had me tell about her mother who loved to go on cruises around the Caribbean. “On one of those trips Mom and I went snorkeling while my brother and Dad went sailing. The commercial boat trip heading back with Mom and I ended up being a “booze cruise.” Needless to say, the punch served was spiked and both of us danced with the masked Caribbean dudes who manned the boat, all the way back to the dock.” The son, son-in-law, and husband spoke and touched on candid and vulnerable reflections.
It’s not the length of love over time we measure when eulogizing a family member but it’s the depth of compassion in those moments that ultimately matters. They are the short-lived breakthroughs with loved ones from the past.
Back to the notorious brassiere incident. Since that day I have sensed and not thought about it nearly every year since that episode sixty-five years ago. Occasionally I glimpse at a photograph of my mother and I will think about her. That is quite different than feeling the depth of that dress shop scenario which stirred up a bit of terror in me at the moment, and joyfulness ever since.
Here is where the functions of our Insula, an organ that scientists claim has superseded our notorious Valentine heart emissions, when it comes to experiencing our most profound feelings. The Insula houses all of our deepest emotions such as unfathomable compassion and intense fear.
So, if you are interested in staying in touch with a loved one that has passed try recalling those hilarious, fear-generating moments that left you breathless.
“A good scare is worth more to a being than good advice.”
Aeschylus, Eumenides, 458 b.c.