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|There comes a time in all our lives when we have to deal with the death
of our parents, and other loved ones. For many of us, that time is upon
us. As Urantia Book readers we may not want a traditional Christian service
for our loved one. We may be faced with the challenge to design a memorial
that reflects our beliefs. In most of our families our parents, siblings,
or spouses do not share our understanding and beliefs. This adds to the
In my family we recently had a catastrophic tragedy in which my father was killed and my immediate family permanently, partially disabled, including me. We were hit head-on by a drunk driver who crossed the center line. I was driving. As the headlights approached, and the crash was imminent, I remember praying, "I'm in your hands now, Lord."
My Father was in the front passenger seat. After the crash he did not regain consciousness. He only took one breath, and that was when they released his seatbelt. Ironically, he and I had discussed his wishes a few days before. He had a living will and did not want "heroic means" used to keep him alive if he had brain damage. He wanted to be cremated. At the scene of the crash, we had to make the decision whether or not to initiate CPR. While my sister and I were still trapped in the car, before our own injuries had been seen to, we made one of the most difficult decisions of our lives and his. I told the rescue workers that he had a living will that he did not want "heroic means" used to bring him back to life. They pressed me. "Do you mean you don't want us to intubate him?" I asked, "How long has it been?" "A long time," was the answer. I asked my sister, "Do you agree?" She did. She agreed. That was the last time I saw my father.
After that decision was made, the paramedics began to deal with our injuries. We had to be cut out of the car. That was when the pain began. The hour and a half ambulance ride was excruciating. I was in serious condition with a collapsed lung, three broken ribs, a fractured pelvis, and six fractures on my right leg. We all needed extensive orthopedic surgery. While my sister, my mother and I were in the trauma room, my spouse had to make all the surgical decisions for the three of us. He also had to make arrangements for our father to be cremated. His ashes were brought to the hospital in a box about a week later. There was nothing further we could do until all of us had recovered sufficiently. Our energies were absorbed those first few days in dealing with our own pain. Then, with learning how to walk, dress and care for ourselves. We were in no condition to plan or arrange a funeral.
Eventually, we all went home from the hospital. My sister left the hospital in an ambulance to fly to Wisconsin. She was still in a wheelchair. My mother left the hospital for an intermediate care center in Florida. She just couldn't face going home alone in her condition. Dad's ashes were placed in the back of a closet and remained there for over a year. I did not walk for six months. My recovery was slow. I had to have additional surgery when the "hardware" in my leg failed. All of us did extensive physical therapy before being able to walk again. Throughout this time, I drew deeply from my spiritual well of faith. I needed the strength to survive, to deal with the pain and not despair, to find meaning and comfort, to find the patience to wait for recovery. Finally, this spring we were all together and well enough to complete the cycle.
My mother is a fundamentalist Christian who thinks I belong to a cult. My sister is an honest-to-goodness atheist. However they both recognize the strength of my faith. They consider me "the spiritual one." I resisted it, at first, when they asked me to plan the memorial service. It "wasn't fair" of them to ask me to be strong when they were not. I had testified to the grand jury, represented the family's interests in court and faced the woman who hit us since I lived in the state where the crash occurred. As we healed physically, we began to deal with our grief. Eventually I came to accept the great honor they had given me. What greater love could I show than to provide them with an opportunity to honor the man who had shared so much with us?
I read, prayed, and meditated trying to find a ceremony that would meet all our needs. Each person would be provided an opportunity to memorialize him in their own way. We decided not to have a priest or pastor. I would facilitate an intimate ceremony. Only the immediate family would be invited. It had been eighteen months since his death. We all knew he was no longer with us. But, we needed to say goodbye to this man we loved.
We set a date when we would all be together. I finalized the ceremony. Mother arranged for a "scattering service" to take us out onto the ocean, three miles out. We all flew to Florida, bringing with us whatever we wanted to include in the service. My mother had some favorite poems, quotes from the Bible, and some favorite hymns. My sister had some photographs that reminded her of "the man" and important times in his life. I wrote small remembrances about what he had taught me, values I hold that come from him, times we shared. My son returned from Central America to join us. My brother-in-law handled the video camera. Afterward we would go out to a Hungarian restaurant for dinner. My father was a first generation immigrant.
Once we were out to sea and anchored, the ceremony began. I rang some Tibetan hand cymbals (tingshas) three times, to announce our "intention" - what followed after would be ceremony. I "smudged" everyone in the boat with cedar and sage smoke. This was to "cleanse" or purify us. I then opened the service with a brief invocation, "We come together today to honor the man, good husband, loving father and grandfather and to remember the life he shared with us." My mother played a tape of a favorite hymn. They had been happily married for 47 years. She read a poem, burnt the paper she had written it on, mingled the ashes from the poem in the water with my father's ashes. Then she placed a flower in the water. Each of us, in turn, made a statement, mingled the ashes of our remembrance with his ashes, and placed a flower in the water. While we were doing this, we had some Hungarian music playing my dad's favorite violin piece. When we had all honored him, my mother played another hym! n, "The Old Rugged Cross." While this was playing I burned the last of the "smudge" and dumped those ashes into the water, ending with another three cymbal strikes.
It was a sad, but beautiful event. As we were coming back into shore, as the sun set, a dolphin followed the boat. In the Native American tradition, if a dolphin appears to you, frothing through the waves, you are to be a link to some solution for the children of earth. You are to link with the "Great Spirit" and bring answers to your own questions and those of others. One is to imitate dolphin and ride the waves of laughter, spreading joy in the world, break existing barriers and connect with the "Everliving One." I found this to be a poignant ending to the cycle that began that terrible day in November, 1990.
I hope this very personal account of dealing with one of life's cycles provides you with some inspiration. I can only pray someone will honor the life I have lived with such love. My faith has sustained me, nourished me and grown through this tragedy. Those of us who suffer are truly blessed, albeit tested. May you find peace in life's struggles that lay before you. May your relationship with God nourish you, as it did me.
Namaste - The God fragment in me greets the God fragment in you.
A service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship