Catie died in the early morning of October 31, 1990. Most of our family members were in town and the service planned, so there seemed to be no reason to wait. Her memorial service was the next afternoon.
We held a small graveside service with family and a few close friends, then went to the church. I had no expectations and I do not remember much, just a few memorable perceptions.
The church was packed with somber faces of loving friends. I remember being surprised by how much strength I felt in that weak moment. With so many people there to support us, I felt strangely secure and wonderfully loved. The standing-room-only crowd assured me there were many people willing to provide the support I needed in that dark hour. Some drove two or three hours to attend that short memorial service, but their deep concern lingers to today.
Flowers surrounded and covered the stage. I’m not a flower guy, but the beauty and fragrance of all those flowers was overwhelming. They symbolized the affection we felt. The arrangements were a tangible display of people’s love for Catie and their care for us. We were not the only ones hurting, and the flowers provided a way for people to express the pain in their hearts. We took many arrangements home but shared some with other family members. Cay made potpourri from some of the dried pedals which we kept for many years.
Holy, Holy, Holy was thunderous. Singing provides a powerful demonstration of the motto, E pluribus unum – Out of many, one. With one powerful voice, the people gathered gave glory to God. The unified singing recognized God’s holiness and focused on His divine authority in our lives. The various individual thoughts and attention coalesced into a single expression providing both strength and submission. Singing unifies, and it is emotional. The vocal expression released emotions held in check far too long. It was a heathy show of many unnamed emotions. (See Hold Me, Hold Me, Hold Me)
The best singer we knew remained composed throughout her solo. I was so focused on my pain I often forgot that others were experiencing a great loss as well. Years later, the soloist told me she struggled all the way from Dallas trying to maintain her composure until after her song – and she did. Strength in and from others was a gift I did not realize at the time but appreciate deeply now.
The message came from the 23rd Psalm – and from the heart. A dear friend, who poured much of his wisdom and experience into my life, preached the funeral message. He later told me he had never preached a funeral from the 23rd Psalm; it seemed overused. But for Catie and us, it seemed just right. He spoke to us and to Haley directly.
Psalm 23 is a classic Bible passage familiar to many people inside and outside the Church. Its picturesque and reassuring words have provided comfort at many funerals and encouraged many parched souls who need green pastures and still water. But for me, the four words that provided hope for my hurt are found in verse 3, “He restores my soul.”
I believe those four words – He restores my soul – are the hope of the Bible. Our souls are broken; life is tough and filled with painful, disturbing experiences. But there is hope. God, and only God, can provide the restoration our souls desperately desire.
Refueling in Flight Ministries, Inc