Monday, April 11, 2016

The funeral liturgy for Bona Dea Miller

The funeral liturgy for
Bona Dea Miller
Boulger Funeral Home
Fargo, North Dakota
Monday, April 11, 2016

Proverbs 31

As I said at the beginning of this service, it is a true honor for me to officiate at this service for Bona Dea. I am the priest of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where she was a member.  Although I didn’t know her well, we did talk on occasion and I greatly enjoyed those conversations we had.  She definitely had an opinion which she had no fear expressing. And, I could tell, she was definitely a very strong person—that came through very clearly—which I admired greatly.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to know her better.  But I can say this: I definitely sort of felt a kind of bond develop between Bona Dea and myself over these last few days. Certainly, because she was a member of St. Stephen’s, she was regularly in our prayers, so there was that spiritual connections.  And on Wednesday night, as she was dying, I went up and prayed with her and anointed her. Those kind of things definitely help that spiritual bond become even stronger.     

But I can say that meeting you, and hearing you talk about who she was and all that she was to you in your lives—there is the real bond. That is where her life really comes alive. In all of you, who knew her and loved her and will carry on with her memory in your lives.

Now, I am of the firm belief that what separates us who are alive and breathing here on earth from those who are now in the so-called “nearer presence of God” is a very thin one.  And because of that belief, I do take a certain comfort in the fact Bona Dea is close to us today in spirit.  I hope we can feel that presence this afternoon and in the days and years ahead. She is here, in our midst, with us, celebrating this wonderful life.

I am also especially happy that we heard this particular scripture reading from Proverbs today. It’s not a scripture we hear very often, especial as funerals, which makes it even more special. But I think it’s a wonderful scripture and, from what I’ve heard about Bona Dea, this is a very appropriate scripture.

One of the things that has become clear from all of you is that she had a real sense of legacy in her life. She knew that what we did in this life mattered. Our actions live on after us.  And knew that was important.  So when we hear those words,

Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates

Those words speak loudly to us today. This is a statement for those of you who are gathered today. You, her loved one, the ones who live on after her, the ones who carry on the act of her legacy, you are her works, praising her in the gates. You are the fruits of her hands.  So, be grateful for this legacy.  It is a wonderful thing.  It is your responsibility as her loved ones to carry her with you from this day onward. Her legacy lives in you. And it is you who are to praise her.  It is you who are to carry in your lives all the good things that she was in this life.

That is a noble responsibility. To carry on the good things that Bona Dea was is important. That is what she would want. That is her true legacy.

In that same reading from Proverbs, we hear the author say,

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.

As I said, when I spoke with her over the years, I could sense both that strength and that dignity in her voice. Those too are noble legacies to have. Strength and dignity. And Bona Dea seemed to really embody those virtues in her life.  If we want to truly honor her, if we want to truly carry on her legacy, it is our duty to embody strength and dignity in our own lives.  

By doing so, you do her honor and justice.  You carry on her memory by all you do and say.  And she would be proud for such a legacy.

Yes, I know is hard to say goodbye to her today.  I know is hard to put her to rest and to move on in your own lives without her. But, we do have our consolations today. We have our consolations in the strength and dignity she has bestowed to all who knew her and loved her.  And we have our consolation today in knowing that the hardships of these last few years have been taken from her once and for all.

But, probably the greatest consolation we have today, is that  all that was good in her, all that was talented and charming and full of life in her—that sense of humor, that love of music and dancing, that vibrancy that was her—all of that is not lost today. All of that goodness now dwells with us who remember her, and for those of us who have faith in God and in a place beyond this life, we know all that goodness dwells there too,  in a place free from pain and hardship, in a place beyond death, in a place of beauty and light.

Of course that doesn’t make any of this any easier for those who knew her and cared for her. Whenever anyone we love dies, we are going to feel pain.  That’s just a part of life. There is no avoiding that fact.  But like the hardship in this life, our feelings of loss are only temporary as well.  They too will pass away. Realizing that and remembering that fact is what gets us through some of those hard moments of life. This is where we find our strength—in our faith that promises us an end to our sorrows, to our loss. It is a faith that can tell us with a startling reality that every tear we shed—and we all shed our share of tears in this life, as Bona Dea would no doubt tell you—every tear will one day be dried and every heartache will disappear like a bad dream upon awakening. It is in a moment like this that we can truly be thankful for all that’s Bona Dea  was to us.

So this morning and in the days to come, let us remember her with a smile. Remember her smiling. Rejoice and be thankful to God for all the good things she was to each of you. And embody those good things in your own lives.  Be strong.  Live with dignity.  Dance.  And sing.  Live your life fully and completely. When you do, it is then that you will be honoring her and her life.  It is then that you will be carrying on her legacy. It is then, that her legacy will blossom and flourish within you.

May God’s perpetual light shine forever upon her, and may her memory be forever blessed.  

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