Monday, February 13, 2012

A Memorial

      It is a custom in our society to hold a memorial for a loved one who has passed away. A memorial service is a ritual where we can bring our deepest feelings and  place them there for safe-keeping. Bringing to the surface all the memories we have of this cherished person, we share how they interlaced with our lives. My nephew, Braden, left us too early. Just twenty-two when he exited this life, he left family and friends reeling in disbelief. We made the eight hour trek to visit his home just a few days after his passing. We arrived hesitantly, not knowing how open the wounds of loss would be for his mother, father, and three sisters. The kitchen was a hub-bub with computers, stacks of pictures, and papers revealing an excavation into this  young man's life.
  Over the short few days before the memorial each facet of his life was recorded and artistically displayed so everyone could know him a little better.

  There was Braden the musician, a cello player, who loved music for the refinement of the soul. 

            The outdoorsman was documented who hiked, snowboarded, and loved nature. 

            Soccer cleats revealed his competitive sports pursuits. 

Friends talked about his salsa dancing and about his LDS church mission to Brazil. I came away overwhelmed by all the living he had done. 

  His memorial was very moving for me. I felt so very alive in this moment recognizing Braden's death. The music was especially evocative of his life. A tenor, accompanied by violin and piano, sang "Be Still My Soul". Each verse grew in intensity in contrast to the words which pled for stillness and peace. The intensity of the music brought me life affirming joy. A second musical number featured a piece from the Bach Cello Suite, played by Braden's cello teacher. The single instrument echoed the "strum und drang of life". Lastly, the high school string ensemble, of which Braden had been a member, played the Sentimental Sarabande by Benjamin Britton. These students captured the soulful melancholy and simple melody of this piece. 

As I let the music surround my thoughts I thought even the flowers strained to be full of life. They were cut in their prime and had just moments to be admired before they would fade. In that moment I marveled at all life and the blessing to be fully present.

   The chapel was filled with people and the group spilled over into the gym. Everyone offered support and did all they could to honor Brad's family.

   It is often the case that a death will bring family members together who have not been together often enough. Time and distance keep us from knowing how life unfurls.

   I witnessed Braden's father, so strong, let the impact of closing the casket overcome him as he grasped his brother-in-law's hand. In that moment Braden's mother would kneel before her husband and hold both of them together. Holding others together had been her gift of grace as she thanked person after person for the work they did to make the memorial happen. Several sisters came to our table to declare their love and devotion to Braden's mother. "We will look after her," they promise,"she is a jewel." 
   "I, the Lord, have suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, ...Yet I will own them, and they shall be mine in that day when I shall come to make up my jewels."
   As the memorial ended and we waved Braden off,  a sunset stretched over the valley. There in the distance was Mt. Shasta which was a favorite hiking destination. The sun goes down for him here but a sunrise looms on the other side.

  "If you really think about it, life exists only in relation to death, as light exists only in relation to dark, and sound in relation to silence. Death gives shape and meaning to our lives."

1 comment:

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