This weekend I helped out with a memorial service at my church for the father of someone in my small group at church (which is called a Life Group). I didn't know her father at all, and actually know her only slightly, since I am new both to the church and to the Life Group. It was a great privilege to be there though.
One reason that this was an honor for me was that when my Dad died, there were people at his church (which he was officially a member of at the time of his death but hadn't attended in a long time) who helped out with the funeral and the reception. They were so loving and kind and freed me up to mourn and visit with family. The didn't know me, and they may or may not have even known my Dad. They were a blessing.
Another reason was that I just enjoy celebrating the life of someone who has passed; each life is special and I get to find out how when I hear stories about their life. In addition, it is a good time to contemplate the meaning of life in general and the significance of death.
Normally when I attend a social function where women help, they are usually family functions and I hang out with the men. This is because the women are in the kitchen, cooking and preparing things according to their cultural traditions. I am not domestic at all, I eat differently from most people I know, and in such situations I never know what to do. So in order to not feel helpless and useless and lost, I visit with the men and talk--something I do know how to do. I often feel as though the women disapprove and that they judge me, as though I "should" know how to make marshmallow-canned fruit--jello salad or Rice Krispie treats. I "should" at least know how to bake "Duncan Hines" brownies! I do not.
So when I was invited to help out at the memorial with the other women of my Life Group, I was very hesitant. I am so unconventional, and don't tend to fit in most places in general (especially in a church), so I was unsure about how to respond. I decided to be honest and open, rather than just decline to help. The group members seem to be transparent and real and honest themselves, so even though I'm new to the group, it seemed like the right thing to do. I told M, the leader, about my lack of conventional female-type skills. I told her that I was a "great follower" but that I had to be told exactly what to do (as in micro-steps). In most things, I gravitate strongly towards leadership, but not in areas that are completely foreign to me. Anyway, M was thrilled, as she likes to lead and expressed an interest in breaking things down for me.
It ended up that I had a great time. M broke things down into ultra-micro-mini steps so that I didn't have to figure anything at all out. It was actually relaxing for me. M had pages of notes and details on what needed to be accomplished; she is a gifted administrator. We talked about this later. Her face lit up as she described how much she liked to organize things and work out details. She loved breaking things down into discrete and easily understandable steps. I really enjoyed the simplicity of following the steps and of knowing what my job was.
At one point in the memorial when everyone was sitting and listening to a speaker, I went and stood with one of the ushers at the doorway and told him that he could sit down or get some coffee if he liked, and I'd man his position to assist any latecomers. He said no, that standing away from the people was "therapy" for him, as he didn't do too well in big groups. I said "Me, too!" So we stood together saying nothing. It was really nice.
This was a rare social occasion in which I felt useful and free to just be myself. I could also enjoy the people who were there and the presentation on the life of the deceased. At the end of the memorial service, instead of being exhausted and craving time alone, I was energized and happy. I cannot think of a social occasion before in which this has happened.
From this I thought about how unique we are all; God made us to work together while yet being ourselves. It was a beautiful time.
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