I was blessed to have all four grandparents alive until I had reached my thirties. However, because they were in my life for so long, losing three of them over the years has been hard. “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Grandma R’s funeral was an especially intense experience because she was the first of my grandparents to go, and her death came rather suddenly. (This experience has intensified my feelings about the importance of family history as Jenny recently discussed. Not two weeks before her death, I had talked to Grandma about interviewing her about her life on video, but never got the chance.)
It was also emotionally, mentally and spiritually draining for me because I had been asked to represent the cousins by giving a tribute at the funeral. It was an honor, but it took a lot out of me.
By the time we had the funeral and the graveside service, it was well past lunchtime, and I was grateful for the chance to sit, and to eat. It was wonderful to be together in that cultural hall, basking in the love we feel as an extended family. We had a meal that is very typical for Mormon funerals —ham, “funeral potatoes,” rolls, and so on.
Strangely, though, what I remember most was my dessert. I had chosen a tasty, homemade ‘oreo’ cookie (a two-layer chocolate cookie with frosting in the middle). As I savored the soft, sweet sandwich, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude and a bit of awe. A woman I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, spent a lot of time and love making these cookies. It was a simple, even silly thought, perhaps, but yet it overcame me to think of the effort she put forth on our behalf.
That cookie became a sort of symbol to me of the love of people who made it possible for us as a family to sit together and rest and simply feel cared for and nurtured. They took care of our physical need for food so that we could be with each other and feel the healing power of love and of the Spirit as we gathered together.
When Grandpa died, I gave the Relief Society president a package of commercial OREO cookies with a note thanking them for what their service had meant to me two years before. I also shared a thought that had come to my mind after Grandma’s funeral.
Sister Marjorie Hinckley, wife of former Church president Gordon B. Hinckley, was known to say, “Oh, how we need each other!” And as I thought of Oreos, I thought how OREO could be an adapted acronym for Sister Hinckley’s statement.
Oh, Remember Each Other!
That is what Christlike service is all about. And sometimes, that kind of love can be found in the simple, sweet things done from the heart.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren [or perhaps done one of the least acts of service?], ye have done it unto me.
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
It is amazing how service can come in such different shapes and sizes to fit how different we all are. I love it when I have that magic moment when some small thing makes a big difference to me, or to someone I’ve served.
I have lovingly baked cakes and made salads for such events. I put a lot of energy into making them better than what I normally serve at home. It makes me happy to read that these efforts actually do bring solace to mourners.