celebration of life, memorial service

A Celebration of Life

Over the years, since I was a teenager, I have played the organ or piano at many funerals. More than I care to count. I’ve played at funerals of people I hardly knew and I’ve played at funerals of people who I had known for years because I had attended church with the person or the deceased and his/her family was close friends of my family. But I’ve never had to speak at a funeral. Until last Saturday.

It wasn’t really a funeral. It was called a Celebration of Life. I like that title much better. There is something encouraging and uplifting about celebrating someone’s life. In a time of grief and sorrow, this title is a small bright spot on a horizon of darkness.

The Celebration of Life was for my cousin, who was also one of the dearest friends I ever had, James McMichael. James passed from this life into the next on Sunday, May 5, 2009. It had been James’ earnest desire to be cremated and to not have a funeral service or memorial service. The family honored his wishes. However, his three sisters and all of the family needed closure. So a Celebration of Life was planned. But, they wondered, who would speak? My name came up and the invitation to speak was issued and I accepted.

Saturday, June 6, came very quickly. I had prayed over what I wrote, prayed over the service and prayed that I would not break down and cry. I had asked God for grace, which He supplied in abundance. It was a beautiful Celebration. Many of our relatives were there. (A few live out of town and could not make it.) Some of his friends attended. There were quite a few of his customers there (James was an excellent hair stylist.) The family had “guesstimated” that approximately 40 people would attend. The actual number was at least twice that many, if not more. It was a tribute to the type of friend and family member James was.

In preparing what I wanted to say, I had the opportunity to speak with James’ three sisters, Jeanette, Jeanine and Ann, and some of his coworkers, who shared some wonderful memories that I included in my talk. I managed to not cry as I spoke until I got to the part of the talk about James and his mother – my Aunt Grace. I got very teary-eyed, but finished without becoming a complete puddle of tears on the floor. I now have greater respect for pastors who must give the eulogy at many funerals during their years in ministry. It is, by far, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But James made it easy because he was such a good man.

James was a man of many talents. He was a superb cook and could prepare and cook anything from the simplest Southern dishes to the most exquisite cuisine your heart (and stomach) could ever desire. As I already mentioned, he was an excellent hair stylist with more customers than he could handle at times. James was a caring and compassionate person who loved his family and friends. He was loyal and dependable. If you needed anything, James would do all in his power to provide your need. James and I shared many good times growing up, times that I will always remember with great fondness.

Here’s to you, James! You are greatly missed!

(c) 2009 Edwina E. Cowgill

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