I attend the funeral services for my cousin's wife's mother yesterday. Held in the chapel of the funeral home, something that seems to have caught on lately. An elderly deacon from one of the local churches showed up, ran through the funeral liturgy and gave the standard reflection.
It started, "Well, I didn't really know
I call this the "standard" reflection because I have heard it too often. A man of God struggles to say something heartfelt and extemporaneous for the deceased, whom he doesn't really know. Rather than avoiding this possibly embarrassing topic, he makes it the centerpiece of the eulogy.
"I didn't really know her."
This is why homilies and eulogies should never be combined. It should be chapter one in the class on homiletics. What "good words" ("eu logia") can you say about someone you don't know? First off, Father, the reflection is not about you and your relationship with the deceased. It is about the deceased and their relationship with the Almighty. It's about the survivors and their relationship with the deceased, now broken, but also with each other, and with God.
I would speak about the relational rupture that is the result of death. Of the lines of love and communication that seemed to have been sundered irrevocably. Of obligations that will never be repaid, tasks that will never be completed. Of a life line for which the ink has run out, with no erasures or rewrites possible.
I would also speak of the presence of God in grief. Of the continuation of life, love and relationship. Of how the deceased has transcended to a newer and deeper relationship with Life, the Universe and Everything. Of how the dead live on in our memories, and in our hearts and in their descendants. Also, in the good or evil they have done during their lives, and which we are called to foster or to undo.
But even beyond this, I would says that even after all memory has faded and the existence of the deceased has been lost to memory and to history, they are held in the life of God. They are always precious, always loved and always nurtured. Their lives continue, in prayer for those still alive, in praise for God's goodness and love. In gratitude that life continues beyond the grave, beyond remembrance and into eternity.
When suns bloat and die; when atoms evaporate; when galaxies fade, cool and solidify; when the universe cools into a dark, hard and lifeless cinder, life in God continues -- probably in ways that we cannot imagine.
This is the promise of Resurrection. That after our descent into hell, we will rise again as Christ was raised. That we will sit at God's right hand as Christ sits, and that we will continue in God's company, doing whatever God needs done, growing in holiness and love until ours is indistinguishable from His.