Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Burial Liturgy for Georgia Patneaude

The Funeral Liturgy for
Georgia Patnaeude
Fredrikson Funeral Home
Halstad, Minneosta
April 12, 2015

+ I will be honest with you tonight.  don’t want to be saying goodbye to Georgia tonight. I—like many of us tonight—just aren’t ready. Yes, I know she had a long life. Yes, I know she was tired. I know it was time for her to go.  But, it’s still hard. And I am going to miss her very much.

I knew Georgia for many years. And I certainly enjoyed greatly those years I knew her.  Every time I would visit her, she would always be so happy to see me. She would brighten right up and let out little yelp of joy when I would I come in to see her.  And I enjoyed that. I have always been very grateful for that.

As I said, I, like everyone here,  will miss Georgia dearly. I will miss her kindness, her gentleness, her laugh, her great sense of humor. I will miss that almost contagious joy that she carried within her.

I know this last year was a hard one for her. I saw her three weeks ago tomorrow, and that day she was having a hard day. But, as we talked that day, I can tell you this:  she was prepared. She knew what awaited her after this life.  And it did not frighten her.
As difficult as it is right now,  the reality is this. We are saying goodbye, yes. But it is only a temporary goodbye. It is a goodbye until we see each other again.

Georgia, I can tell you, had a very deep faith and belief that we would, one day, all see each other again.  She had a deep faith in her God, who was with her and remained with her until the end. She knew that she was loved and sustained by her God.  I can assure you, her faith was strong. She never wavered, throughout all of those last trials and illnesses. She never wavered through any of the hardships of her life.  She never complained. And, I can tell you,  she never once lost her faith.

Every time I visited her and asked her is she wanted Holy Communion, she very anxiously and excitedly said, “Yes!” She was always, to the very end, a good Episcopalian and a faithful follower of Jesus.  

The scripture readings we have today are particularly apt. Our reading from Romans could have been written with Georgia very much in mind: Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

And a bit later in Romans, we hear an even more incredible statement:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing—nothing—separates us from that incredible love God has for each of us.  It’s almost too amazing to even imagine. Georgia knew that love and that strong faith. And last Monday morning, that glory which the Apostle Paul spoke about earlier in that reading, that glory was revealed to Georgia.

She believed in that glory. She knew it awaited her. And she knew she was headed toward that glorious destination.

At the end of this service, I will lead us in what is called “The Commendation.”  For many of us, we have heard the words of the Commendation hundreds of times. But if you listen closely tonight to the words of the Commendation, you will find the heart in which Georgia Patneaude’s faith was found. In the Commendation, we will say,

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

And it will end with those very powerful words:

All of us go down
to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia.

Those are words in which, even in the face of all that life—and yes, even death—throws at us, as it did to Georgia through her life, we, like her, can hold up our heads even then,  with integrity, bolstered by our faith in God. Even in the face of whatever life may throw at me, we can almost hear her say: I did not let those bad things win out in my life. And she did not.

“…yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia,
alleluia, alleluia.”

Even you, death, will not win out over me, Georgia seems to say. Even in the face of these awful things, I will hold up my head and I will face you, death, with strength. And, because I have faith in my God, you, death, will not defeat me.

And I can tell you, death has not defeated Georgia Patnaeude. All that joy, all that love, all that wonderful life that was contained within that little small frame of a body—all of that is not gone tonight. It is not lost. Tonight, all the good things that Georgia Patnaeude was to us—that woman of life and strength and joy—all of that is not lost.  It is not gone. Death has not swallowed that up.  Rather all of that is alive and dwells now in a place of beauty and Light inaccessible. All of that dwells in a place of peace and joy, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.  In a place in which, there never again be any more tears.

Georgia will never cry another tear again. Sadly, we’re not at that point yet in our own lives. We will shed more tears.  Certainly tonight and tomorrow we will shed more tears. But, for us who are left, we know that that place awaits us as well.  That place of light and joy awaits each of us as well.  And we will have the opportunity to dwell there.

Yes, I am brutally honest tonight. I will miss Georgia very, very much.  We will all miss her and will feel her loss for a long time to come. But, on this day in which we bid her this temporary goodbye, let us also be thankful. Let us be thankful for this woman whom God has been gracious to let us know and to love. Let us be thankful for her example to us.  Let us be thankful for all that she has taught us and continues to teach us.  Let us be grateful for the love she felt for us and the love we felt for her. And let us be grateful for all she has given us in our own lives.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Georgia. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.  Amen.

No comments: