Do you ever find yourself at a loss of things to say when someone tells you that a person close to you or to them has died?
Last week a friend of mine from many years ago passed along to her Great Reward. Unfortunately for health reasons I was not able to attend her Going Home service, out in the country at a beautiful new Presbyterian church that I have been hoping to see for quite some time. Even by name, how can you go wrong with a church called Chapel in the Pines?
I know many prayers quite brief, and many quite long to use for yourself and your friends at times like these. I always refrain from such hackneyed phrases as “gone on to a better place,” or “gone on to a place where there is no pain,” or even “gone home to Jesus.”
They sound shallow to me. They must sound worse to the listener.
Even though the speaker is well-intended in saying so, these words become the invisible words that we speak, and they do not hear. They lose all meaning in the grief and personal pain that we each feel when one of our own has left us here – perhaps alone – to sally on. They do not begin to address the great human question of
“Why has a so-called compassionate God done this to me?”
I read the prayer today in an email from my friend and confessor, Rev. Vicky. I immediately loved it for its concise work of cutting to the chase of what we need to say at that time (by way of prayer), what we believe as spiritual beings, and our true wishes – above all else – for those who have departed.
Disregarding for one moment the triune sequence that is the outline of all prayer:
- Praising God
- Approaching God
- and Invoking the Intercession of the Holy Trinity
we speak in these simple words our love and compassion, the same love of God as we know God to be, and our hope – through faith – of the better existence of the one who has left us. I have included the breath points: (*) for those who might wish to also include this prayer in their meditations.
May (his/her/their) soul(s) *
the souls of all the departed, *
through the Mercy of God, *
rest in peace. *
Remember today the famous promise most know so well from Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me.”
This great and beloved one, the one who hung the stars in the sky, is with us in these times of passage. Stays with us. Feels the pain with us. Cries with us.
And thus begins to explain the love of God.
Keep the faith!