Memorial Service

Tonight I got to speak at a California Home Care and Hospice memorial service. CHCH conducts a couple of these a year for families that have lost loved ones. It’s a sweet service that they provide, and I felt blessed to be a part of that. Below are my remarks which I made.

We have a knick knack shelf in our house. It’s little cubby holes are filled with little trinkets from places we’ve traveled. There’s a gorilla from the National Zoo, an armadillo from Texas, a pottery house from Brugge, Belgium, a troll doll from the Haight in San Francisco, and a paving stone from Prague, Czech Republic. I love to stop by the shelf occasionally and think about the experiences that go with each of those little pieces of the past.

Some of my favorite things remind me of people rather than places. I’ve got a Navajo flute that Eric Kee personally carved for me. He lives in Tuba City, Arizona now. But before he returned to his home he spent two years in Florence, Italy as a missionary. I loved to hear him talk about the Italians’ fascination with his Native American heritage.

This black bear came from Japan. My father brought it home after the war was over, and it sat silently on a bookshelf throughout my childhood. I used to pick it up and caress it, not realizing what an important reminder of my past it would be when I became an adult. I told my father late in his life that I didn’t care much about anything else, but I wanted that bear. About three or four years before he died he gave it to me, and it still evokes the same feelings. It still sits on a shelf, but now, when I look at it, I see my dad.

The French word for memory is souvenir. In English we associate the word with those tourist-trap places that sell cheap trinkets to travelers. But it really means much more than that. Souvenirs are reminders. They connect us to people or events in much the same way that a single word or phrase describes a large object: jet airplane, skyscraper, mall, or city. Say the word or look at the souvenir and you have an immediate image.

A souvenir is more than a trinket. It can be a letter from a loved one. Words of endearment flow from its pages. We are warmed and encouraged by them.

Our daughter used to keep one of my mom’s perfume bottles. Occasionally she would open it and be reminded of how my mother smelled.

Sometimes a small note that my father jotted a thought on will drop out of a Bible or a book. I love finding those little surprises.

Souvenirs are important reminders of heritage, love, and who we are. The writer, Saul Bellow, said, “Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”

So we are all united tonight by one thing, and that is the common experience of loss–loss of someone that we care about greatly. Treasuring their memory is a good thing. It makes them and us significant. Remember, because in remembering a beautiful fragrance is released into your life. Jean de Boufflers said, “Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.”

Dear Father, thank you for memories. With them we learn who we are. With them we have companionship with those who have gone to the next part of life. With them we derive strength and insight for tomorrow. So we bless and praise you for gracing us with memory and ask that give thanks for the courageous, kind, and loving people who are here tonight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.