Why Memorial Services

A time to learn

A time to learn

Our family planned two memorial services for Rhoda, one at the College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana and another at the Bahia Vista Mennonite Church in Sarasota, Florida.  Both services have been posted on this website, the latter is now placed in a prominent place.

Recently I attended a service in the Belmont Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, that celebrated the life of Ann Gingerich.  Today on my computer I watched the streaming of the memorial  service at the College Mennonite Church in Goshen that celebrated the life of Fran Wenger.

A leaf about to return to the earth

Why do I pay attention to the memorial services of persons whom I do not know?  In part I am prompted by the words of the son of King David, likely King Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. The writer called himself “the Preacher and he described in the book how desperately he sought satisfaction in the accumulation of things  only  to  discover that  the results of his ventures were empty and meaningless.

Wild lettuce seeds

Wild lettuce seeds

In Chapter 7:2 of Ecclesiastes the Preacher advises that it is better to spend time at funerals than at parties. After all, the Preacher observes, everyone dies and the living should take that to heart. If the Old Fool were making the observation he would say that it is better to go to a memorial service (celebration of life) than to a church pot luck dinner because every one at the table is going to die, and all should prepare for the certainty of that event.

Cuddle while you can

Cuddle while you can

Everyone will die. That fate is unavoidable.  All that one can do is to find comfort in the celebration of a life, and give sober thought to its brevity.  We know a little of how life begins, we know how to sustain life for a while, but of what happens after death, we know nothing.  No matter what we believe, no matter how sincerely we believe it, no matter what we think we know, we know nothing. The best we can do is give heart to life.  That is why we should go to memorial services.

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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3 Responses to Why Memorial Services

  1. Rohrer Eshleman says:

    We KNOW what Jesus said. It takes a little trust to believe that!

    • Were you at Ann’s memorial service? I looked for you, but didn’t see you. But I was told you were there. Did you see me? We have both changed. Recently a man asked me my name. Then he asked me about Homestead. I thought I was meeting someone who had been in VS. No, he said he was there in MDS with Rohrer Eschleman. And that I had been there at the same time. He was a male nurse. I’ve forgotten his name.

  2. SaraAlicZimmerly says:

    I’m older too, and have some experience with these things. I choose to read obituaries about people I don’t know, especially in Mennonite World Review, because I am amazed at what God has done in people’s lives – where they came from, things they faced, why they went were they did, the statements of faith their being present on earth have made. I appreciate funeral celebrations for the same reasons. I know what I hope people will say when I die now. And, if I have to cry, like my sister Virginia said so well ” then, cry”. And if I cry, I will walk through my grief. That’s the place for it. I trust that there will be someone there to hold my hand, stand beside me, or at least pass me a Kleenex.

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