20 May 2003

The Joy of Sitting Still

May 20, 2003

I went to a funeral a few weeks back.   The funeral was for a man I did not know as well as I should have, but who was loved and respected by our church and the larger community.  Over 200 people crowded into our small church to pay their last respects.  The pews were full, the extra row of seating that had been added was full and the walls were full of people who crowded in for standing room only.

It was a wonderful tribute to a life fully lived.

About three-quarters of the way though the service, one of our elderly parishioners fainted and struck his head on the floor.   I could feel everyone in the church suddenly fixing their attention on the spot where he fell and I could hear whispers as everyone tried to figure out what was going on.  I could see that one of our very competent members who was also acting a general usher and organizer was going for the phone and I could hear 911 being called in the background.  What seemed to be fifteen doctors and nurses consulted about how best to make the man comfortable while waiting for the paramedics.

After a prayer for the man who had fallen, it was decided that we would resume the service until the ambulance arrived.  One of the deceased friends, who had been in the middle of his speech when all this began, started up again.  We all tried to listen attentively and give the wounded man a little respite from our stares.  The crowd of medical people around him had sorted itself out into a reasonable order and there was not much else for the rest of us to do.

The mourner had not gotten much further in his speech when the welcome sound of the ambulance siren was heard in the distance.   He paused as the EMT’s made their way in past the alter to the stricken man.  They worked with him for a bit.  The organist tried to give him some privacy by playing softly in the background but the man’s voice was weak enough that the EMT’s couldn’t hear over the music so they asked that it stop.  They worked for a few more minutes and then helped him get onto the stretcher.  Suddenly he rose up in the air as the stretcher popped up into its rolling position.  We were still all seated so we had to look up to see him.  He was sitting up, and receiving oxygen and, best of all, he was conscious.

Spontaneous applause erupted throughout the church.  I remarked to my husband that it was one of the only times I had heard applause during a church service.

The poor man whose remembrance had been interrupted picked up where he had left off and gave a very moving portrayal of his long-time-friend’s life.

I don’t often find joy at a funeral but this one time, between the life of the man we were remembering and the life of the man who we had seen lifted up above us there was a real celebration in that room.  

In the chruch and in life, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.  That day was a time to sit still do both.

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