It has been a busy time, and I am far behind. Over the next few days, I hope to write several posts updating you in a number of areas. This was my second week back from vacation. I hope that tomorrow will be my first day off. Before I left on vacation, an elderly man was diagnosed with cancer. I visited with he and his wife before I left, and apologized for the fact that I would be away. When they realized I would be gone for 4 weeks, they informed me that if he died before I returned, they'd wait for me to do the memorial service. They planned on cremation, so that would be possible. He died while I was gone, and they scheduled the memorial service for this past Wednesday night. I was grateful, because that would give me a week to get back into the routine. I was over to their house 3 days last week as we worked out details. There were family dynamics that made it challenging, but I came up with something that pleased everyone.
Then, last Friday I got a phone call from the wife of a new member. I knew their daughter was fighting cancer, and had met her at the hospital when her father was being treated for heart issues. Their daughter had gone on hospice care, and wanted to see me. They also wanted to talk to me. Friday I went and visited the daughter, and Saturday the parents came in to talk to me about funeral arrangements. Early Sunday morning she died. I got the call before church, and they wanted to have the funeral today, Friday. I knew what they wanted, and I knew the funeral meal would be huge, since she was a school teacher.
Sunday I announced both services, and said we needed a lot of salads and desserts for today. I knew
it would be a challenge, as many of our people own summer homes and aren't around in the summer. I also knew that the families for both of these services would be challenging in the midst of their grief, as they were responding by becoming very controlling. I also found out we had two members having major surgery on Monday. Fortunately, members were already planning to care for them
I was grateful that we had finished the bulletins for the Wednesday funeral and this Sunday on Thursday. We always try to work ahead so we can handle big funerals that come up.
Wednesday morning I received a phone call from the widow from that evening's memorial service. An ongoing health issue had come back, and she was in the ER. I began looking for someone who could make a video of the service. We also decided to invite people to write her notes. I also contacted a woman about going up to the hospital to see her. She had come to the church to clean up the quilting room so it could be used for the funeral dinner today, so she cancelled her lunch plans and went to the hospital when she was done in the quilting room. I was especially pleased when I found out the widow had been alone at the hospital-- all the family was mad at her, so no one went to be with her.
We had over 150 at the Wednesday night service, which was amazing when I consider the age of the deceased. The service ended up going very well. In fact, I got a beautiful thank you note from the widow the next day. She said a friend had told her it was the best memorial service she had ever attended. We had a reception following that service with finger foods. We had it upstairs in the sanctuary, and that went well. I recruited one of the men to lock up so Administrative Assistant and I could leave. I had stayed through the supper hour to deal with the people who were stopping by to drop things off, so she had picked up Daughter, who wanted to be at the service.
Both of these services required a great deal of work. The elderly man was well loved by the congregation, but the woman today wasn't even known. Her dad hasn't even been a member a year, and has missed a number of Sundays due to health issues. The congregation I serve is truly amazing. They took care of the people having surgery. Set up our fellowship hall for a funeral dinner for 150 people, and rearranged the sanctuary so there would be seating for over 200. Members volunteered to bring salads and desserts. They had more helpers in the kitchen than they needed, and they were kept running. They ended up serving well over 160 people. We ended up with over 250 at the funeral, so we had people bringing additional chairs upstairs so everyone would have a place to sit.
The congregation was so patient and loving with the various demands that were being made of them. They were very concerned about me, and suggested we just do a hymn sing this Sunday. Administrative Assistant and I ended up working a couple of hours yesterday evening to finalize this Sunday's bulletin and the announcements. (We had a brass quintet practicing in the choir room next to the office, so that helped lighten the work).
Daughter folded 200 bulletins for the service today. Administrative Assistant created slides for both of the services. Volunteers came in to run the sound board and projectors. They truly showed the love of Christ to grieving families this week. I couldn't be more proud of them. A woman who has been known to complain about the work involved in funeral meals in the past brushed off my apologies over the challenges the one today presented. "It's how they are coping with their grief. God always provides the help we need to get it done. You remind us of that all the time." A number of people changed their plans to be there today to help. Some took time off work to be there.
Daughter wanted to attend today's service, too. So she has been with me since Wednesday night, and will be here until Sunday afternoon. By some miracle, I managed to finish Sunday's sermon and slides today, so I will have tomorrow off. One of the men came over and mowed my lawn today. I had asked for help due not only to my busy schedule but the fact that I fell and injured my still unhealed arm while we were camping. It is very sore and stiff. Tomorrow I will have completely off.
Tonight I am tired and very grateful to be in ministry with a congregation that does such a good job of taking care of one another-- and me. I will update you on Daughter and her challenges and in the next few days.