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A Farewell Prayer

At a funeral for a beloved church member, Guideposts Executive Editor Rick Hamlin says a farewell prayer.

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Ever wonder if you should go to a funeral or not? Go. You’re meant to be there.

That’s how I thought of Carmen’s funeral. A long-time member of our church, she died last Saturday at age 87 – at least that’s how old the program said she was. She seemed ageless to me.

Was I her best friend? Goodness no. Did I feel loved by her? Goodness yes. Did she know how to spread love to many? Yes, indeed, that was her gift.

She might have had few words, but she had a dazzling smile and the warmest handshake. At church she was the first to notice when anyone new showed up;  at coffee hour she would be the first to grab their hand and lead them to someone she was sure they should meet.

I’ve been to church committee meetings where people have strategized about how to make sure visitors feel welcome. Carmen was a committee of one in that department.

For many years she and her elderly mother came to church and I could tell that her mother worried about what would happen to Carmen when she was gone.

She shouldn’t have. Carmen took care of the church; the church would look after Carmen.

People visited her at her care facility. Her name would pop up on the prayer list. When the latest photo directory was compiled, there was Carmen, older and frailer, but still with the dazzling smile.

Over 30 years ago Carol and I got married at this same church. We decided on a small ceremony, just family and a few close friends.

“But you know,” Carol said, as though explaining a little known rule of etiquette, “anyone from the church community is allowed to come. That’s just how it works.”

Most of our church friends were too polite to show up uninvited. Not Carmen. She dispensed with all such formalities. She came in a new dress and a shiny pair of Mary Janes. Hers is the widest smile in all the photographs.

We prayed for Carmen at the funeral. “A sheep of your fold, a lamb of your own flock,” said the minister. “Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

Here on earth she had let that light shine.

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