Funeral Alleluia

Something special happens on December 21st: on the frozen prairies, where the sun will rise at 10 minutes to 9, and it will set at 20 minutes past 4, in the sky for a scant 7 hours. On this day, it seems as if the entire earth has fallen asleep.

And yet, in that slumber, the 21st, the solstice, it is the start of something. Starting in September, we northerners begin to lose the sun. It gets darker and darker, earlier and earlier. We lose sight of the summer, our memories clouded in cold and dark.

I bid my son farewell in the language, in the liturgy, of my ancestors. Using the words of those before me, using the same form as the words that tied his father and I together on our wedding day, the same verses that sped my father on his way home, we came to bid good-bye to Gabriel on the shortest day of the year.

On my wedding day, I remember the church doors opening as the congregation began singing the first verse.

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love from which from our birth, over and around us lies. Lord of all, to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.
I remember my broken spirit unable to give words to the hymn. Not resplendent in a white wedding dress; rather small and broken, in a navy blue suit, hiding arms covered with bruises and needle marks.

I remember his God Parents, reaching back to the words of Job. Some of the most triumphant words in the Old Testament, spoken with such quiet sadness.

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my flesh is stripped from me, yet in my body I will see God.
I can hear Regula's voice as she read the Gospel, My adopted grandmother's voice stumbling as she read Revelations, perhaps unable to believe that any hand could wipe the tears from our eyes, wishing we were already in that land of no more death.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

I remember the words at the end:

Into your hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend your servant Gabriel. Acknowledge, we pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

On the shortest day of the year, a day in which death seems so imminent, so powerful, so crushing and cruel, on that day, we said good-bye.

On the day the old year could be said to end, and a new sunrise, a new season to take its place: we proclaimed Gabriel's birth in heaven. We spoke about light, not darkness. On that day, our broken hearts and faint voices stood up and proclaimed the power of the Resurrection. On that day, we proclaimed that Gabriel was gone from our arms, but was entirely safe and alive in God's hands.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of all; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return. For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia Gabe. Spring is just around the corner.

(toby awards on monday)