Life into Binders is a story about the ministry of caring for others through life’s transitions.
I have an attractive leather-like binder that I use for weddings, memorials and graveside services. Occasionally when I am asked to officiate at these kinds of occasions I pull my binder from the bookshelf, empty whatever may be in it, and begin using it in the weeks leading up to whatever the day calls for. As final preparations take shape, with readings, prayers and poems selected, including text I’ve written to use, everything gets slid into plastic sleeves for easy page turning, which is especially helpful when a service is out-of-doors in windy conditions.
One of our dearest meeting members, Phyllis Brightman, passed away in March at the fabulous old age of ninety-three. Yesterday I led a private graveside service for Phyllis’ family members as they committed her ashes to the earth inside their family plot. Shortly afterwards I officiated at Phyllis’ memorial service in our nearby meetinghouse. There, we celebrated with music, remembrances and worship, a life lived long and well.
These things have predictable rhythms and outcomes, and when they go well…that is, when loved ones are satisfied, and things go according to plans, it is a good feeling indeed. Still, if I do it right, spiritually, it is tiring work and ministry, which is as it should be. It isn’t important for anyone, especially the family, to know that prior to their service I also make it a point to briefly visit the graves of other services I have led in that same cemetery down through the years. I also, for whatever reason, like to be the last person to leave the meetinghouse, to shut off the lights, look around the room and close the door.
It’s now sunrise the next morning. The low, yellow light streams across my home office and feels rich and gentle, easing me into a brand new day. The tasks and cares of the day before are completed. Flipping through my binder I remove its contents, filing away what matters and recycle the rest. The binder is almost empty now, containing just one thing; a photo of Phyllis. I return it once again to its place alongside Faith and Practice, my bible, and other volumes I hold dear. It will stay there, almost empty, with just one picture, like a place marker, waiting for life to evolve two weeks forward and come out next for a wedding ceremony which I will happily lead.
Text and images by Kevin Lee