Lessons from Grieving

“We seem to give him back to you, dear God, who gave him first to us.  Yet, as you did not lose him in giving, so we have not lost him by his return.  You do not give as the world gives, O Lord.  What you give, you do not take away.  For what is yours is ours always, if we are yours.  And life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight.  Lift us up, O God, that we might see further; cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly; draw us closer to yourself, that we may know ourselves nearer to our loved ones who are with you.  And while your son prepares a place for us, prepare us for that happy place, that where they are you are, we too may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Those were the closing words at Tom Trittipo’s memorial service yesterday as he was laid to rest next to his wife Jane in the Columbarium made ready for his arrival.  It was the kind of joyous service Tom would have liked surrounded by his family and friends telling stories of his life that recalled with joy their time with him. There were enough tears to remind of why we came, but mostly there was laughter and joy and a sense of a life lived large and well.

His Godson said it best in describing Tom as having a “smirkiness” that bordered on the naughty.  And while his cool, cerebral persona was ever the gentleman we always knew that lurking right below the surface was a party animal waiting to be unleashed.  Someone else said it was hard to imagine Tom without Jane—they were at times our Lucy and Ricky always fun loving and ready for adventure.  But the lessons Tom taught everyone in that room was to love life each day to its fullest.  And so it was at the Easter service that sang him into heaven to be again Jane’s trusty sidekick.

Steven and Kathy officiated at this service with Steven gently coaxing the crowd to be comfortable speaking and telling stories about Tom and their life with him.  It is a style of funeral service that brings out the best in all who share it and sends the departed off to the nearer presence of God in style and grace.

I found myself watching Steven yesterday more deliberately than I probably should have given the occasion.  But part of my grieving process of his retirement and looming departure is to drink in and savor the memories of events unlikely to happen again.  My grieving is not maudlin but it is sentimental. Perhaps this will be the last time I hear Steven choreograph and preside over such a holy sending off party.  Perhaps, I should listen closer to the sermon.  OK OK I confess I am good for about seven (7) minutes as is the oft-ignored 9am service sermon rule and after that I get antsy. Perhaps, I should send another note of thanks for some small kindness.  My list of perhaps’ is long and my time for delivering on them is growing short.

And then the final passage above was read and suddenly I was filled with a warmth I had not expected and I was at peace in my melancholy moment of reflection. . .  “Yet, as you did not lose him in giving, so we have not lost him by his return.”

That’s it, isn’t it?  One of the joyous gifts of grieving—what God gives he does not take away.

As so we sang ”Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” to send Tom off with a proper fanfare as Steven and Kathy closed another chapter in a life at St. Timothy’s by sealing the urn in its proper niche.  We pray that Steven and Jane will have many years of joyful singing together in retirement just as Tom and Jane had done, making new friends, writing new chapters in their lives before they start tasting the recipes  from Jane Trittipo’s latest cookbook.  I can see the title now: “Heavenly Microwave Ideas for your Next Pearly Gates Tailgater” by Jane Trittipo.

Now Tom is back where he belongs in Jane’s manic test kitchen serving as lab rat for the latest recipe variation—-I think it needs a little more salt, dear!

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