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Heavenly coronation service for Angelina Sandel, 6-30-1922 – 11-10-2021

by davesandel on November 20th, 2021

Saturday, November 20, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Heavenly coronation service for Angelina Sandel, 6-30-1922 till 11-10-2021

Mom’s casket was still open Friday morning at the church. Her hands were still folded, just like they had been the night before. She hadn’t moved a muscle all night. In the days before her death her nights were never so peaceful.

Five white chairs beside the casket sat empty, and although many people were coming into church for the funeral, I was alone in the room. Mom and I were alone together. I held her hand, cold. I brushed her hair off her forehead, cold. She had just the right lipstick on, the color she put on whenever we drove to town for dinner. “Does it look straight?” she would say.

She wore a winter suit, red with a belt, long sleeves, very attractive. She had on the same clothes that morning she had on the night before. I was getting a little carried away, imagining her there with me.

The needy shall not always be forgotten. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

I told Mom it was good to see her, that we were about to have her funeral, and they would be wheeling her into the sanctuary any minute now. But not yet, no one had come, and we were still alone. I prayed with her, what I pray in the morning, out loud so God will be sure to hear me, the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed by thy name …

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

They came then, but not to take her away. Pastor Clarence read from Revelation and prayed with a whole group of us, while the quiet masked men from the funeral home closed the casket. No one saw them do it, but it had been open, and now it was not. The music played, our Facebook Live camera rolled, the pallbearers walked beside the casket. Please rise. Please be seated.

Ed Dowling, friends for so long of all our family, sang “On Eagles’ Wings” from the congregation, and his voice soared above all the rest of us. He sang that song at his own dad’s funeral, too. Pastor Rogers showed us the hymnal where Mom marked her favorite songs, forty of them, bookmarks sticking out everywhere. Mary Kay, sitting near, touched the casket and wept. After the sermon we prayed, Our Father, who art in heaven.

That’s when I cried. Just a bit. Here we were praying that very same prayer with Mom again, all of us this time, and pretty loud. I think we were serious about that prayer.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever and ever Amen. Angels singing round the throne.

My enemies are turned back, overthrown and destroyed before you. I will rejoice in your salvation, O Lord.

The service was over. I scurried, stuff to do, my mind wasn’t ready to rest, got in the car, drove to the Mt. Pulaski cemetery, sat in the chairs in the tent beside the gravestone Mom and Dad put up years ago. Dad’s death year, 2002, was etched more darkly in the stone. Mom’s 2021 will be there soon.

In the morning just as the sun rose I opened the door at Mom’s house where we slept, and birds were singing, the leaves were gently falling, the air was clear. Can birds sing quietly? If they can, they did. They did not accompany us to the cemetery, though, as I had thought they might.

“And now we commit the body of our sister Angelina Sandel to the ground. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the sure and certain hope …” I shook a little, standing sheltered from the cold wind, beside Margaret and Mary Kay’s husband Jim. The words took me by surprise. Their finality hurt. The sun fell back behind the clouds.

Pastor Rogers gave us all little sheets of paper, and we prayed the words Mom prayed herself every night, Luther’s prayer: I thank you heavenly Father that you have graciously kept me this day, and I pray that you would forgive me all my sins and graciously keep me this night. For into thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let thy holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. And be with my children, help them to do the right things. And be with my helpers. Amen.

Back at the church we ate the good funeral meal. Mom helped fix that food for others for years and years. We talked for hours. Mom’s grandkids came from California, Iowa, Colorado, Sweden, Texas … my cousins came from New Jersey and Springfield, my aunt from Peoria, so many friends.

They can no longer die, for they are angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.

Late that night, no more scurrying, back in Urbana exhausted, I fell into bed. I prayed then, those prayers that Mom prayed, that we prayed together, and closed my eyes.

 (1 Macabees 6, Psalm 9, 2 Tim 1, Luke 20)

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