Friday, February 13, 2009

The Gift of Honour

I arrived at the funeral home half an hour before the ceremony, and Susan's sister Brenda met me with a hug. Susan was still back at the hotel, where the power had failed, leaving them trying to get ready in the dark.

Brenda's eyes were shining as she said, "I'm not wearing black, I'm wearing Dad's favourite colour." She wore a beautiful jacket of kingfisher blue. "I can't be sad," she whispered.

I understood. There was so much of God's hand in all that surrounded this man's passing.

A little later as we began to file into the chapel for the service, I noticed a row of veterans in the back. Gray haired, faces lined, and no longer resembling the dashing young men who once went to war, they sat with a quiet dignity. Suddenly I felt very close to my own dad. I knew that many of them shared a brotherhood with him that only they could understand.

Later, after the committal at the graveside, we came back for lunch at the Legion hall and I went over to chat with a couple of these gentlemen and shake their hands. I told them that my dad had been an old soldier too, and I asked them where they had been during the war. I wanted to show them honour, to pay attention to them.

The respect and honour shown to the deceased person at a funeral is an important part of this final ritual. Susan's and Brenda's dad, Hugh Saunders, was honoured with a full colour ceremony at the Legion the night before the funeral. He was buried with a hundred poppies in his casket, placed there dozens of vets and his family. Susan pinned hers right on his lapel and then patted his chest, right over his heart and whispered, "Goodbye Dad--until I see you again."

As the cavalcade of cars proceeded slowly through the heart of Windsor to the cemetery, I thought of the sombre progress, 6 years ago, along the streets of the village of Alvechurch as I rode in the funeral car with Mum and Robert. A man in top hat and tails walked slowly in front of the car, leading the way from the house, to St. Laurence Church, only a short walk really; not even a mile. The sense of dignity though, was immense, as it was when dad's coffin was wheeled in, draped in the Union Jack, and led by standard bearers.

Today I wondered why we save so much honour for the end. I understand why we do it then, but why wait? Why not try to show honour and respect for each and every human being we meet, each and every day? Our world has become so casual in many ways that I think we have lost something precious. It is, after all, a demonstration of love to honour someone. What a wonderful thing it would be if each person we met felt incredibly cherished and attended to, loved and honoured.

1 John 4:7-12 (New International Version)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

9 comments:

Dave Hingsburger said...

I haven't commented for the last couple of days because I find myself lost for words when it comes to loss of this magnitude. Susan's post yesterday and yours today are words enough. In grief we find also joy, in sadness, celebration ... these are the gifts of our faith.

Belinda said...

Thank you Dave. Sometimes words can indeed seem lacking, even to those of us who cherish them so dearly.

Marilyn said...

What are some ways we honour people?

LISTENING popped to my mind right away when I read your post, but I'm wondering what other ways there are of showing honour. Anyone?

Belinda said...

Listening is the most profound way to honour someone, I agree, Marilyn. We just don't do it enough. I also think of hospitality--honouring people by creating a place of welcome, extending ourselves and bringing out the best of everything to lavish love on someone. I love doing that.

Susan said...

Thankyou Belinda, I have been thinking these very thoughts these last few days... Why wait? Everyone should know who they are to us before they are gone. And we should look at people with eyes of acceptance - of mercy and understanding - the way God looks at us.

Yeah, I think the best way to honour someone is to not ever judge. Don't ever think we know what is in someone else's heart and why. Accept them and look at them the way God does...

Susan said...

P.S. Thankyou Dave. I knew you and Joe were "there". :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

I think you honour someone's memory by remembering who they were not pretending that they were something bigger, better, brighter. I think you honour the living by seeing them, really seeing them, for their uniqueness and value - seeing people through a filter of wishing and wanting, of imagining and hoping - devalues who they are in the now.


Hmmm, that was clear in my head and mud on the page, oh well, don't know how to fix it ...

Susan said...

I don't think it needs fixing, Dave. I like what you said and I think I get it.

Belinda said...

I continue to ponder this every day. I realize how little I really do this on an ongoing basis. I want to do better at it. I really do agree with Susan, Dave; there is nothing unclear in what you said, and I do agree that really seeing someone as they are and loving and appreciating them, without the wish to change them is profoundly honouring. God knows that I have done enough of the other thing in my life and I regret it so much.