Preplanned

I grew up across the street from the Aimar family in Beaufort.

Dr. Charles Schley Aimar, Sr., and Jeanne Sams Aimar were another set of grandparents to me and my brothers and an adoptive Uncle and Aunt

I called Mrs. Aimar “Memar” and Dr. Aimar “Dr. Memar” as Aimar was too hard for my wee wittel tongue to say back in 1970sumpin

Dr. Aimar died in 2012. His funeral was on June 11, 2012, at the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort, South Carolina

Communion included for all believers

A true celebration

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Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints

 

Memar lived until June 16, 2017

Her children asked me to read Scripture at her funeral at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, also in Beaufort, South Carolina

Memar never switched her membership from St. Peter’s even though she attended church with her husband and children for years

Once a member of the Roman Catholic Church, always a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Their people are my people

Back in 2012, on the weekend following Dr. Aimar’s funeral, I sat down and wrote a letter about faith, church, hymns, Christian heritage, service to our fellow man, and adherence to the Golden Rule to my Godchildren.  It was a long letter.  I mailed the letter to all seven (7) of those young people

Seven of whom I’m entrusted with their spiritual growth

Six of whom are girls

Five of whom are not named “Virginia”

Four of whom live in Charleston

Three of whom attended the same school in downtown Charleston together

Two of whom are named “Virginia”

One of whom lives in London

That same weekend, I pulled out a legal pad, the Book of Common Prayer, my Bible, and my iPad with my church’s hymnal displayed digitally.  Next to those was my copy of the order of service from Dr. Aimar’s funeral. Obviously, I have kept that for years

Within twenty minutes, I had planned my own funeral

At the age of forty

That plan has been sitting in the Bible that I keep by my bedside

 

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Notes on a funeral

 

I have not changed it one bit since that hot weekend in June some seven years ago

Really

Not one thing

This has been a summer of many funerals

As I attended them, I silently compared them to my own

When certain hymns were listed, I smiled knowingly

When Martin Luther told us that God is a mighty fortress, I smiled knowingly

When there was no Communion offered, I smiled knowingly

When there was Communion offered, I smiled knowingly

Where there was Amazing Grace, I smiled knowingly

When there was a lengthy homily, I smiled knowingly

When there was no homily, I smiled knowingly

When we were told to lift high the Cross, I smiled knowingly

When the 23rd Psalm was read, and, let’s face it, it was almost always read, I smiled knowingly

When families recessed to “Onward! Christian Soldiers”, I smiled knowingly

Some or all of that may be in my funeral plan

Planning my funeral made me smile and weep tears of great joy back in 2012

I don’t see my funeral as anything but a party in the Praise House

I don’t see my funeral as anything but a way to come and thank the Lord

I don’t see my funeral as anything but joyous

According to the Rites of the church I attend, a funeral service is an Easter service

Alleluia!

I highly suggest planning your own funeral

It’s the most liberating thing I have done

I have a couple of friends who have already put me in charge of their services, provided I outlive them

That’s a bit much, but I got you covered

You know who you are

And, yes, you can have “How Great Thou Art”

And, yes, you can have “Morning Has Broken” so that you can relive your mildly hippy leanings from high school

And, yes, you can have “All Things Bright and Beautiful” because you loved those James Herriot books

And, yes, we will make sure to skip “Amazing Grace” because you think it’s over used in the South

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Not my favorite hymn, but if it worked for Dr. Aimar and you want it at your funeral, well, then, as the hymn says, then sings my soul, my savior God to thee

 

I am not being morbid or maudlin or morose

I exhort you all to sit down and take the time to pick out the Bible verses, the hymns, a poem by your favorite author, a song by your favorite band, or anything else that you would want to have

If you don’t believe as I do, then plan it anyway

It’s one thing your loved ones will love you for in the chaotic days following your death

I will be sent off in such a Rite One way that even Thomas Cranmer himself would have been comfortable

His Prayer of Humble Access remains one of my favorite parts of the liturgy

We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy Table

It will be prayed at my funeral

As for the 23rd Psalm, I think it’s too hard to say at a funeral.  Just too hard. We’ve all heard it so many times.

As soon as we hear “The Lord is my shepherd” most of our eyes well up with tears

I could barely listen without streaming copious tears at a cousin’s graveside funeral this summer

Instead, at my farewell, those assembled will sing the 23rd Psalm in the form of “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

…and, oh what transport of delight from thy pure chalice floweth

So much prettier than “my cup runneth over”

And, it doesn’t end in a preposition

I’m not kidding when I say that this summer, I have attended a funeral at least once a month since May

Some months more than one funeral

During those funerals, I took comfort in knowing that my funeral plan sits in the front cover of that Bible by my bedside

My funeral will be in a church, but my family loves a graveside funeral, too

All of my grandparents had graveside funerals

A couple of my great aunts and uncles did, too

We had a full service with Communion for a great aunt in Savannah. She would have loved it. I know I did

My father has requested Amazing Grace on bagpipes at his funeral

Whew

That’s a killer

As is Highland Cathedral on said bagpipes

That initial inhalation and Cetlic whine before the stirring chords reaches down the throat to rip out the beating heart of all who hear it

Whew

That’s a killer

My father has also requested Eternal Father Strong to Save (The Navy Hymn) which is also the Marine Corps Hymn with the Corps being a part of the Navy

Dr. Aimar was a proud Marine.  He fought on Iwo Jima in World War II.  With their wonderful old Beaufort accents, pronounced “wonnaful ole BEW-foot” accents, the Aimars always had stories about “EEE-woah” and their reunions with the “EEE-woah” Marines and their wives.  We sang the Marine verse at Dr. Aimar’s funeral

We will sing it at my father’s, which I hope is eons and eons from now

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Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee

Eternal Father Strong to Save always gets me

Whew

That’s a killer

I say it must be allergies as my eyes well up, but, we all know that is a lie

So, even though I hope I live for many more years, I have my notes inside the copy of the scribbled in Bible that sits by my bed

This was the required Bible translation for my year long study of the Good Book at Chapel Hill

Old Testament, First Semester

New Testament, Second Semester

Read the whole thing cover to cover from that first “In the beginning” in Genesis to that last “Amen” in the Revelation to St. John of Patmos

Alpha to Omega

The Good Book will always be by my bed

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I skipped the Apocrypha

 

So, if you have not put pen to paper and planned your final send off, I would urge you to do so

None of us are promised tomorrow

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

If the Lord wills

A mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes

It’s always much later than we think

When a good friend was in her final illness during the time we all knew her end was not far off, she informed me that she had planned her funeral and told me that I would have a speaking part

I told her that I had planned my funeral in 2012

Her reply, “Well, I mean, of course you did”

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Preplanned

  1. I’ve come to look forward to these posts, Hamlin. So uplifting and wonderful! You are a thoughtful and fine writer. At some point please put ’em all in a document and send ’em off to a literary agent. What a lovely, inspiring compilation your blog posts would be!

    Like

  2. Thank you for this heartfelt beautifully written post. As a northerner, who grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and now lives my fatith through a Protestant lens, I appreciate your funeral ritual references and feelings about them. The Hymns and scripture verses mentioned uplifted my soul this morning. James 4:13-15 – may it be seared on my heart and mind each day.

    Like

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