[the relaxed re-entry back from holidays predictably lasted until i picked up my voicemail messages… and i wouldn’t have it any other way]
i’ve been asked to be involved in creating a memorial service for Pat. Pat worked at the asylum seekers’ resource centre, and the community of people from the centre who are mourning her is made of people who are from a vast range of cultures and faiths – and some, of course, of no faith. The service is to be non-faith but faith-filled.
i do love doing these community rituals. it’s such a privilege to be trusted with them, and i find i’m strangely blessed in the process – finding new (to me) words, images and actions to shape rituals. i figure that the purpose of the rituals is to create a space for hope to be present within the story of human fragility – a story that’s common to all traditions and cultures. and it’s a story that’s particularly poignant for a community of asylum seekers and refugees. i don’t think they need me to tell them what resilience is, or that hope can be born in despair. it would be arrogant to assume that i could… (and one of the paternalistic things that christianity has often done is to assume that we are the ones who know the way out of despair, that we are the ones with the sacred story to tell… what stories have we missed hearing because we’ve always started with ours?). i keep saying that one of the things i’m learning about public rituals like this is that i have to trust God to be present, rather than pretend that anything i do, or any words i say will make God be present.
I didn’t know Pat, but what i’ve been told of her story over the last couple of days is quite remarkable. She was someone who embodied transformation, who made a determined effort to begin life again. she was rough and tough. i think she would be staggered by the depth of love and grief surrounding her death, and by the impact she’s made on people’s lives.
one of the recurring themes that’s been going through my mind over the last few weeks is the remarkable fragility and resilience of life. it’s been highlighted by the babies conceived and born, and in sudden deaths like this. asylum seekers and refugees live with it all the time. and yet we forget that so easily. half the shock of being reminded is remembering that you’ve forgotten, when at the time we last encountered the fragility we believed that we would never forget again (if that makes sense). i’ve been thinking about that in terms of christmas, but more about that later.