Short stories — Laura’s story

Laura’s story.

A healing of the heart

 

It was now the Sunday before Christmas and I still had to prepare for a funeral the following day — Christmas Eve — and organise a Christmas morning service at a daughter church. I had no idea what I was going to preach. All my church activity was mingled with domestic duties associated with the season of goodwill. To make matters worse, because of a stupid dispute with my vicar he was giving orders but refusing to discuss anything that really mattered to me. I was feeling so alone. Was it time to pack it in?

Hurrying home after a busy morning in the church, I looked up at the sky and saw a ray of sunlight pierce the dark clouds to illuminate my path by its radiance. A line from psalm 119 entered my head.

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

I knew that, although I felt so very alone in my ministry, I was not alone — He was with me. All would be well.

One-thirty of the following day I had a very special funeral to conduct at the local crematorium. The deceased was a lady from a residential home where I took services and offered pastoral care. It was special because I had been asked by the bereaved daughter to somehow bring her dead father into the service too. Evidently, a year previously her dad had died and the funeral, as far as the bereaved were concerned, had been a disaster. The family had not recognised the man the minister had spoken about; what’s more, strong words were said about those not keeping the faith. There had been no healing — only more grief. Although the elderly couple had been separated in their last years, they had retained their first-love. Even if there was only one body in the coffin, I was determined that the couple would come together both in the address and in the prayer-with-thanksgiving part of the service.

The following day at 7.45am, I arrived for Morning Prayer as usual. We went through the motions and then drifted off, some home for breakfast, me to the office to get on with odd jobs. The bereaved family was on my mind: I was worried I would let them down. I knew I must have faith that the Holy Spirit would be strong in my weakness, but it seemed I had been wrong about many things. Who was I to promise healing at a funeral service? Who was I to be conducting a funeral in the first place? But all others had gone so very well, wasn’t that proof of my calling to minister to others? I was well prepared, I must simply trust.

Arriving at the crematorium where all the services I had conducted had been appreciated without question, I began feeling better about myself. Soon I was robed and waiting by the door for the mourners to arrive. As the first car pulled up I walked forward to smile in greeting and warmly offer my hand. Within minutes, I was leading the flower-bedecked coffin, followed by mourners, through the open doors and into the chapel.

“Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and I am the life…”

And so, forgetting doubts and personal sorrows I assumed the role granted to me by the bishop, and in which I felt so much at home. As we went through the service, I sensed the Spirit’s presence illuminating minds and comforting sad hearts. Then came the last hymn. “Abide with me” is a deeply moving hymn and it is important not to let it drag. I took the lead and sang up; this was not the time for sadness and weeping:

“Where is death’s sting? Where grave thy victory?

I triumph still, if thou abide with me.”

We finally arrived at the Committal. Here, with the following prayers, the much-loved husband of the deceased was again included.

The organ played and I led the adults and children out. Smiles greeted me by the door. The only wet eyes were those of the daughter’s husband.

“Thank you, Mrs Smith. That was truly beautiful, all is now healed.”

 

I too had found an inner healing, an assurance that I was where God wanted me to be.

 

      

        

           

           

           

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Short stories — Laura’s story”

  1. Payton L. Inkletter Says:

    A story of a real life, of one Laura Smith, overworked, under supported and insufficiently appreciated, it seems taken for granted by the very ones most obliged, in one of the institutions most culpable for this type of neglect, the church. But good to learn, she has maintained her connection with the divine spirit indwelling her, and is inspired by a natural phenomenon that the spiritually asleep would miss – that ray of sunshine triggered a successful divine down reach, and helped Laura up to higher ground, from where the view is inspiring and sustaining.

    She nurtured this inspiration and by strengthened faith overcame her fears, shedding light and love into the souls of mourners. A happy ending, which really is pregnant with new beginnings for so many. Well done Gladys.

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