I need to call this "The hardest day of my life". At 11:00 a.m. today we met as a family at Sunset Cemetery for a private interment. It was a beautiful day, cold enough that everyone was wearing a coat and gloves/mittens, and it was quite windy. Our plot is situated in a beautiful spot...but...how do I describe my emotions as we followed the hearse to Jan's final resting place? I will just say that it was the hardest experience of my life.
I had asked for 7 chairs to be graveside...6 for my grandchildren and 1 chair for me. I sat in front of my grandkids and told the adults I would be talking just to the grandkids...but they were welcome to listen in on what I said.
I had prayed very hard to find the right words to say to help them understand what had happened to Amma...and decided to use an illustration that is not original to me but that I gave my own twist just for our family.
I asked the grandkids to take a gloved hand and pinch their nose, pull on their ear, tickle themselves under the chin...etc. Then I had them take their hand out of their glove and lay the glove on their leg. Then I told them to make the glove on their leg pinch their nose, pull on their ear, tickle themselves...etc. It was fun to watch them wiggle their legs or just look at me in a confused way. Then I had them put their hand back into their glove and repeat the exercise.
Then I showed them one of Amma's gloves and reminded them that when her hand was in the glove she used to pinch their nose, pull on their ear, tickle them under the chin, give them a big hug, etc. I also showed them that the love I held did not have Amma's hand in it and therefore it could not do any of those things.
That became a springboard for me to explain that Amma's body is like a glove and that inside her body was her spirit that gave her the ability to make her body move and laugh and talk to them and hug them. But when she died the part that was inside left her body and went to heaven. So here at the graveside we are thinking about Amma's body(glove) and we say that "Amma died"...but we really should be saying that "Amma is alive"; because the part of her that was inside her glove is now in heaven.
I closed by asking them to remember when they came to our house and one of them would ring the door bell and Amma would come to answer the door. When she opened the door I said: "Remember how excited she was...how happy she was to see you...how big was her smile...how she gave you a hug and told you she love you? Well that's what happened when Amma went to heaven. It was Jesus to opened the door and he was excited to see her and he had a big smile on his face and he welcomed her to her new home." It was talking like that which seemed to help the grandkids and they were listening with real interest.
We had a basket of individual roses with us and I invited everyone to take a rose and instructed them to find a space around the casket. We then each took as long as we wanted to meditate, pray, talk to Jan, talk to the Lord...and when we were finished we placed our rose on the casket and then stepped back to wait for everyone to finish. It was a very personal, touching and emotional time that meant something special for each of us.
I then closed our time with a prayer that included a prayer of committal. I have done these committal services so many times as a pastor, but it was a totally new experience to do this for my wife. God gave us all strength and I believe the family time on Wednesday and the service at the graveside have served us well in our grief and prepared us for the visitation that evening and the Memorial service on Friday morning.
That afternoon we all met at the funeral home to set up displays of pictures and remembrances of Jan. Each of the grandchildren had made a poster and there was a big bowl of chocolate hug kisses along with flowers. That evening we would see some 500 people come to visit with us. It was an overwhelming display of love that impacted me deeply and showed the degree of love and respect with which Jan was held.