“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sally's memorial service

To follow up on my last entry, we held a memorial service for Sally at our Light and Power class. Circumstances prohibited us from doing this on the two occasions over the past 15 years when two other members of our class died. The first had left the class, had been very ill, and lived at home. We literally didn't know until several months after her death that she had died as for some reason her family cut off contact with us. Then the second person was a man and his family requested that we not tell the group that he had died, but that he had moved. So we honored their requests for a while, but then the other men that he had lived with started reporting that he had died, but once again that was about 6 months later. So Sally was the first person in our group for whom we had the privilege of having a memorial service.

The memorial service went very well, I thought. There was singing and tears, as there should be when a life is remembered. There was discussion of the hope of our salvation, and that Sally was now in heaven with the Lord. But the most poignant moment, to me, was when her room mate read the 23rd Psalm to the class. I was blessed to be able to stand with her as she read, and help her with unfamiliar words. She had the Psalm largely memorized which can become confusing when you are are trying to read something. Anyway, she did beautifully. She also closed the meeting with a prayer.

One of the most interesting things, however, was that the group home owners were there. They are a wonderful Christian couple, who are very loving towards the residents. The gal owner, related a story of how there had been many licensing people around, obviously checking to make sure there was nothing wrong about the death. They noticed that there were flowers and a nice sympathy card that had been sent to the home. In fact there was a bouquet for the home, and a bouquet for Sally's room mate. The licensing people were surprised and shocked that someone from the community had not only noticed Sally's death, but that they had responded so kindly by sending flowers. I must tell you that I had nothing to do with the sending of the flowers, but was very proud of my church for sending them. What a great example, a great witness to those licensing people. But it also made me sad to think of how many people like Sally live in group homes where they have no community interaction with others. The group home owner made the comment about how important our group was to Sally because we were here friends, and everyone should have friends in their lives. Such a small thing, but such a huge thing in terms of the quality of a person's life. People in group homes are so isolated. But they are people who would love to have friends as much as anyone loves to have friends. Too often, however, the church has ignored those people.

You know the average person in a group home is someone who would come to church if invited. They would be responsive to the Gospel message. With simple acts of kindness, we could literally change their lives. But we don't do it. We don't try to reach out to people in group homes as the Christian church. As a result they live segregated lives with few friends and limited opportunities for social integration. In the end they die and no one other than licensing even notices. It was such a blessing today to know that the passing of a woman with severe cognitive disabilities was noted by a room full of perhaps 80 people who largely gathered to remember a life. They were also genuinely sad to see her go. It is a small thing, but once again it is an important thing.



Anonymous said...

My wife and I were among the folk fortunate enough to to have been present at Sally's memorial. It was a truly unforgettable experience. There were a few tears, but there was more joy, because everyone there seemed to know that Sally is in a place we all hope to be one day: in the presence of the Lord.
It was moving when Sally's roommate read the 23rd Psalm; for me the most awesome moments revolved around the discussion begun by one of the L&P members about a passage from 2 Corinthians (5:6-10). She wanted to talk about casting off these earthly bodies and living in a new spiritual body. The group came to understand that we life on earth is like living in a tent, some glorious, some tattered and dilapidated, but all of them not much more than a shell, imprisoning the essence of the person living in the tent.
Death frees us from the tent we live in; Sally has been liberated from her tent. Sally's tent had Down's Syndrome, but she isn't there anymore.

As Sally's roommate said after Sally's death, "she doesn't have Down's Syndrome anymore." I wasn't always sure about that idea, but the passage from 2 Cor. reassures me. Sally's body had a disability. Her soul, her spirit is perfect; and she is with Jesus, in that perfect Spirit body.

I'll bet she'll be a little more chatty the next time I see her.

See you forever Sally,


bethany said...

Is there a website or something that gives the contact information and details about the various group homes located in the state of California?

Jeff McNair said...

If you go to this website, you can search for the type of facility you might be looking for. It is not an exhaustive list, however, as I have not been able to find the group home mentioned in this blog.


Anonymous said...

I am teary as I envision the conversation about death mentioned in an earlier post.I am struck by the simple beauty of your hope in the possiblility of change. It is a hope I don't always have, but I am thankful to people in my life who show me how to get it.