By Greg Schmidt, chaplain
Last week, I did a little soil preparation in a small, kidney-shaped garden spot that I’m developing which will one day soon be filled with Canna rhizomes and Dahlia tubers. As I was working, I looked down and said, “Yes! I see you!” to about 15-20 tender 1” to 1.5” green Crocus and Tulip shoots just beginning to peek out from under their blanket of soil and snow!
“New life” is amazing, isn’t it?! Anytime I see or experience something new coming from someplace empty, barren and dead, I’m in awe! And that reality is never more “real” than when I stand and look down at the bedside of someone who has just passed away. Why? First, because my faith informs me that in death, the mortal gives way to the immortal. And second, my hope in the strength and resiliency of most people informs me that “survivors” must, in time, discover a way of “carrying on” and “living again” following death. Sooner or later … when the time is right … their life has to “peek out” … again.
One of the interesting phenomena currently occurring throughout our country happens when families decide to not hold services of any kind following the death of their loved ones. I cannot wrap my head around those decisions. First, by not doing so, a life isn’t remembered, honored or celebrated. Second, family members aren’t gathering to tell their loved one’s story nor to receive the comfort that comes from personally and physically supporting one other.
I’ve told my wife, sons and friends that when I die, I want them to gather together … and tell stories! No “services.” I want to be cremated, so they can just set the urn down in the grass in a place where they are surrounded by beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees! I want them to play three to four of my pre-selected favorites of worship music. Then, rather than have someone speak/preach, I want them to tell their stories about the things I said that drove them crazy or made them laugh … what I did that was worth remembering … what they’re afraid they will never be able to unsee or forget. I want to know if I made a difference in their lives. If so, what was it? I want to know if there was anything I said or did that will carry on to the next generation. If so, how?
And then, I want them to seriously crank up the volume on my “Top 10” favorite 70s rock and roll tunes and dance! (Which probably won’t happen because too many of us grew up white and Mennonite! By the way, that’s one of my favorite jokes I tell on myself! LOL!)
Why are my suggestions for what they do to remember me important to me? Because, figuratively speaking, I want whatever I’ve done that is worth remembering and talking about to find a way to “peek out” from under the body that is dead and gone. Why? So that something new has a chance to take root and grow and bring joy and beauty to a seeking world! And so that I’m remembered. Celebrated. Honored. And the next generation has a story to tell. And are comforted as they wait for their mourning to turn to dancing (Psalm 30:11a).
Jesus provided his disciples with a way to “remember” all He said and did. It’s called Communion. And that’s all I want for those who follow after me. I want them to discover a way to remember, honor and celebrate the life that is in our life in this life!
The first day of Spring is quickly approaching. So, I have a great suggestion. Go purchase some seeds, rhizomes, tubers or even root-cuttings … and prepare to plant them! Intentionally make plans to bring life and beauty from what appears to be dead! And then celebrate the new life! And while you’re at it … celebrate your life! God is!