Verse – The Memorial Service

The day we remember
at the Memorial Service
a friend of 55 years, some
will say he was a human
having a spiritual experience,
looking to the skies for the
one who’s “passed on”.

Others of us remember
the face, the smile, the stride,
the fitness, the speech
and mannerisms during
walks in the mountain woods
of a real human having a
spiritual experience.

Are we flesh and blood,
living on the eternal’s shore
turned back to dust?
Or are we stardust that
never dies, immortals
experiencing mortality
before returning to the sky?

Has he died or passed on?
Are the ashes and memories
of Phil what remain of him
or were his smile, his walk
and talk just time-bound
expressions of a spiritual
being locked in a cage?

I hear no bird singing but
the funeral dirge and hymn
reminding us to think
less of ourselves and our
not-so exceptional species
of flesh and blood, dust and
ashes left in cemetery urns.

“O God, our help in ages
past, our hope for years to
come, we fly forgotten as
a dream dies at the opening
day. Be Thou our guide
while life shall last and
our eternal home.”

Today our tears again will
fall, as do all creatures
great and small when
time’s short river returns
to the eternal ebb and flow
whence we came and to
which all soon return, with
sobs of humility and praise.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 17, 2015, written in anticipation of today’s Memorial Service for college and seminary classmate and friend Philip Conner Brown. At the same time as the Memorial Service today at White Bear Lake United Methodist Church, he will be remembered in a Chapel service for Maryville College alumni who died during the last year.


10 thoughts on “Verse – The Memorial Service

  1. Gordon, I don’t think too much about the urn or ashes. I do know,however, Phil’s legacy continues in folk as you and I whose lives were touched by a loving and giving soul. He was a consummate Churchman as well as a family man.


    • Thanks, Mona. When he died four months ago, the Celebration of Life was scheduled for a later in order to give friends time to plan for it. Today is the day. The grief is still everywhere among all who loved him. The question for the Pastor today will be how to celebrate a life in ways that are consistent with the unexpressed raw grief of those who attend. This is one day when I’m glad I’m retired. I get to be there and leave it in other capable pastoral hands.

      Liked by 1 person

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