I kept waiting for his eyes to open and his smile to reappear. I had never seen Fr. George without that smile–like there was a big joke he couldn’t wait to let me in on. But he remained still inside that coffin and the hand which was so warm the dozens of times I kissed it after services was cold when I said goodbye.
But the beauty of my faith, the belief in the THERE that is not here and yet so close, tells me that Fr. George sang the Thrice-Holy hymn with us this morning. I know he will participate in that ongoing work that occurs in heaven, the one we haltingly try to join into here.
That thin veil between life and death, between the temporal and the eternal, broken in just an instant, does not keep THERE always out of here. It seeps through, oozing into our lives in ways we could never imagine. It calls to us. It beckons us. It reminds us that this is not all that we are. That we are more, meant for more and will be more.
Fr. George (the man formerly known as William M. Smith) is now more. He is now that which he was always meant to be (though I think he got closer to it here than most people). Our hearts mourn him but we rejoice too in knowing that he will find rest in the place where the saints repose.
I made it through much of the memorial service Monday night without tears, but when we got to the part of the service, a part common to all our services, in which we sing so beautifully “Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Father, bless!” We ask our father, this one who has committed to guiding us and shepherding us through to THERE, to pray for us one last time in the service.
I broke down completely as I thought about how I will miss seeking Fr. George’s blessings and his advice. I was so sad.
But then today, as we sang the Liturgy and then the funeral, I was reminded throughout of how he’s not gone so much as just THERE. But he will still, I am sure, ask God to bless us. He will still serve, albeit THERE, alongside the saints, and all the angels, in the mystical supper always served in the high places.
So today, when I kissed that hand for the last time, I whispered to him, almost completely out of habit…