by Robert Burnett
I had the privilege recently of participating in the funeral of a longtime St. Michael’s member who had, in recent years, taken ill with a degenerative disease. I say “privilege” because it is an honor to share such an intimate event with a family.
The day began at the graveside in Magnolia Cemetery, overlooking a tributary of the Cooper River. The service included communion for the family and a handful of friends, followed by interment. Surely this last act has to be the most wrenching and emotional moment of any service because the utter finality it signals…it feels as if the hand of someone you love deeply slips loose from your grip, and they are truly gone forever. The loss feels brutally real.
And yet there was an unmistakable, almost palpable feeling of renewal that morning–not because of readings from Scripture, or prayers recited in unison, or even the words of tribute–but because the finality of burial was paired with the celebration of Communion: it felt as if sharing the Eucharist linked everyone beyond their shared grief, and reminded us of the new life that awaited.
Later in the day was a large and very public service at St. Michael’s—beautiful in a very different way, and more overtly celebratory of this kind man’s life and legacy. I wondered as I looked around if he had known how many people he’d obviously touched—and by extension, if any of us still alive really have any idea of how many people we may impact, for better or worse, as we navigate our own lives. And who…to be honest…doesn’t wonder how many people would show up at our own day?
Memorial services not only commemorate the lives of those who pass, but can help the still-living remember how short our days are, how they can be better spent, and the guidance that Christ can give us if we let Him. That kind man, so obviously beloved by his family and community, gave both one last gift that morning.
Robert Burnett is an active member of St. Michael’s who serves as a Eucharistic Visitation Minister, bringing communion to housebound and incapacitated members of the congregation. He resides downtown with his wife Susan and their two daughters.