Memorial in Solitude — From Derek Parker, Pastor, First Friends Meeting, Richmond, Indiana — April 26, 2020
Saturday night Nancy Tyndall phoned me, to let me know that Phyllis Wetherell had died. Phyllis died in hospice care at Reid Hospital, from non-Covid causes.
As of the morning of Sunday, April 26 about 54,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus. Other people like Phyllis also die of non-Covid causes. If you are reading this you may only be one or two degrees removed from somebody who has died from coronavirus, or from other causes. With social distancing, funerals will likely be limited to small groups of 5-10 people, outdoors, and graveside. It can hurt to be apart when we need our family and friends; and when we need an opportunity to say goodbye.
Many of us say, “I will pray for you.” And I have no doubt that we do that. But most Protestants get little instruction about how to do this. It is easier to follow through on our prayers, when we have a plan.
So today I got out the prayer-books in my office to make a plan for how to pray for Phyllis, and for others whose memorials I may not be able to attend. I recommend finding a quiet place to make your plan, and then carry it out.
O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all humankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; and all are illuminated through the light of Thy Providence. – Amen
After that first prayer I’m going to take a silent moment to think about Phyllis. I’ve known her for a long time. She was finishing her employment at ESR when I was a prospective student over 20 years ago. As a student at ESR we had a picnic table dedicated in celebration of her years of service.
She was a member of West Richmond Friends Meeting, but I reconnected with Phyllis through the Thursday First Friends Book Group that met at Friends Fellowship. Her thinking about the books was sharp, and her humor was bright. I can still picture her sitting in her chair at Book Group. Her sudden departure from this world is a bit of a shock.
At some point I will need to end my silence. And close with another prayer.
O Lord, support us all the days of this life, until the shadows lengthen, the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in Your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last. AMEN
I plan to pray this way. I would even appreciate somebody else praying for me this way, after my life comes to an end. I suggest that you make a plan for how to pray in memory of others who have died. You don’t need to use the same prayers I used. You could substitute the Lord’s Prayer, or Psalm 23, or Psalm 24, or a more spontaneous prayer. In the face of terrible news in a time of solitude, respond with faith and prayer.
May God give us strength in times of sorrow, whenever those times come. And wherever we are, may we be inspired to pray with those who mourn.