Report from a funeral

Songs sung this week by the hundreds gathered at the century plus–old church for the funeral of a woman who died too young included the classics, "How Great Thou Art" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness." A soloist and musicians performed a song I'd not heard before and one that many in the sanctuary had probably not heard before, at least not at a funeral: "Come On Up to the House" by Tom Waits. Here's a You-Tube video of the song. Similar to Scripture's encouragement to write God's words in your heart, this filmmaker choreographed the writing of Wait's lyrics on one's body. In this woman's eulogy, we learned how she had perfected friendship to an art and continued to put others first even as she endured a particularly fast and furious case of multiple sclerosis. Her husband, two daughers, mother, sisters, and parents-in-law (or parents-in-love as a friend of mine refers to hers) sat bravely in the first pews. The minister read from Romans how nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He told a story that Henri Nouwen told, about how he asked a trapeze acrobat (Nouwen was a lover of circuses) how it is that a performer is caught by another after he or she lets go from one trapeze and flings him- or herself into the air. The acrobat responded that the flyer must only fly, stretching toward the catcher. The catcher then catches. Nouwen saw this as a metaphor for dying: letting go, stretching toward and trusting the catcher who is Christ. The minister spoke of it also as a metaphor for living, with our lives designed to soar, no matter how long or short the arc, stretching always toward the catcher.

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Photograph information: "Female acrobats on trapezes at circus," Calvert Litho. Co., Detroit, Mich.