The very first memorial service I ever attended was for a woman named Mary Case. She was in my supervision small group for a counseling ministry in Berkeley. She was a gentle, sweet woman, who spoke with warmth about her relationship with her care receiver. She would share about her hopes for her teenage children, about family trips, about projects around the house with her husband. She would also share about her cancer. At our last meeting before she passed, she mentioned that things were going quite smoothly and that she was optimistic about the future. Her death, although not entirely surprising, was shocking.
I didn’t know Mary well, but I felt compelled to attend her service to support her family. I arrived at the church on that beautiful sunny spring day. Friends and family members came forth to share memories of her. Some were crying. Her husband told a story that had us all laughing. Some could only speak a few words.
Today, on another sunny spring day, I left a different memorial service, at a different church, in a different city. This time, it wasn’t a mother and wife whose life was cut short by cancer, but a vibrant young woman taken by an accident. A young woman whom I had never met, but clearly had an impact on everyone around her. As I reflect on what her loss means for those close to me, I remember these words from that first service, years ago: To grieve is to let go of that which you cannot have. It is painful, it is difficult, and it takes time. To grieve is to acknowledge that we cannot hold claim to another, but that we can thankful for how another has deeply changed our world.