My mother’s funeral was perfect. We started with a traditional service in the same Lutheran Church that she was baptized and confirmed in. Several amazing ‘winks’ from God happened throughout the day. The first wink was the coincidental confirmations of themes in the form of birds, God’s hands, feathers, grace. I sang a song I wrote, “Feather in His Hand.” The graphic on the program was coincidentally, a bird and two hands extended. The minister talked about floating through life and a fishing/boating theme from JOHN 21. My sister Denise had prepared a eulogy about my mom on a boat.
As the casket was leaving the church it just happened to be noon (we had started the service late). The noonday chimes loudly went off just as my mother was being placed into the hearse. It couldn’t have been cued better and yet it wasn’t cued by anyone this side of heaven.
Sitting at the gravesite was difficult. We watched as they were about to place her into the ground. This is when I cried the most. It had been a gorgeous day. The two days before were cold, rainy and cloudy. This day had a beautiful blue sky, scattered clouds and moderate May weather of 60ish degrees. I had told my sisters that I felt it was essential to sing “Over the Rainbow” at my Mom’s graveside. It was her favorite song for us to sing. We had been singing it in 3 part harmony since we were children. As we sang the song, I briefly thought…”Look for a rainbow. Surely, God will send a rainbow today of all days.” I didn’t see one. But the thought passed out of my mind quickly. I forgot about it as fast as it had crossed my mind. I was too impressed in that moment with the beautiful singing of the birds who sweetly and loudly joined the quartet of sisters. We then watched as my mother’s casket become vaulted in and moved into the ground.
We then thoughtfully and prayerfully placed the flowers into the ground on top of the casket one by one – in a line as we said goodbye. Following this was a lovely luncheon at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. After that, we all fell into afternoon naps.
As I fell off to sleep, I marveled at the perfection of the day. I gave no additional thought to the rainbow. The day was too perfect and I literally had seen Jesus in so much of the service. I fell off into my nap thinking of the pastor’s sweet message:
“There will be spiritual surprises wrapped up in everyday events.
You all experienced that in your life with Shirley. The ordinary suddenly became extra-ordinary, the mundane became marvelous and the simple became spectacular. In it the Lord smiled upon you and provided gifts and treasures of His love and grace that you enjoyed in your daily walk.”
Around 6pm we met for a casual potluck at my Aunt Pauline’s house. We enjoyed family time in her farmhouse. When I was inside, I saw rainbow colors reflecting in the room. I smiled to myself thinking that God was showing me little glimpses of rainbows in colors inside of the house. After dinner the door flung open and my son Andrew came in, “Mom you are going to want to see this,” beckoning me to come outside.
As I headed outside, just as the sun was setting, we saw the most amazing full rainbow (with some rays from a second rainbow as well)…. There was a slight mist of rain, a giant bright orange sunset on the opposite side of the rainbow and a long lasting full rainbow. When I saw it I screamed with joy and yelled out “Jesus” and I totally freaked out calling everyone from inside to come outside to marvel at the sight.
GENESIS 9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
As i looked at the rainbow all i could think of was the magnificence of God’s grace. My mother was a quiet woman who lived an extraordinary life in the way she loved and inspired others. She had great faith and great love. God in turn in all His power spares nothing for her send off. This rainbow I am sure was a rainbow as big as the rainbow He showed Noah. It held the covenant of promises for the generations and a blessing and promise that my mother was alive in Heaven and that the waters of life that tried to destroy us all, will not come – because He promised.
My quiet mother was worthy of a Noah sized rainbow. God loved her so much. God loves me so much. God loves my family so much and loves you so much. We are worthy of Angels being called in, nature being called to sing and the sunsets, rains and lights converging together to bring heaven into the earth for a moment, where we are touched by HIM in all His glory on a day where it would seem like so much was lost. It is then that He shows us how evident and alive Heaven is here in the earth.
My mother was worthy of a giant rainbow, church bells perfectly timed, synchronistic messages, birds harmonizing with her daughters and a sunset of fire over the land that gave my mother life and now envelopes her in death. God is extravagant. He spares no expense. He is the Creator and the orchestrator. We in turn can choose to marvel, praise Him and be grateful or miss the miracle with skepticism.
The pastor’s message was so clear: “You have been participants in what is called “the long goodbye.” The process of preparing and planning for the time when your loved one slipped away from you, adrift in another reality, while tethered to your hearts, memories and history. But now, she was turned loose and set sail to arrive safely on the other shore! “
So Shirley (my mother) is in her sweet home “Over the Rainbow” with Jesus. And for us being able to witness the spiritual surprise, we are oddly satisfied and comforted even in death. Knowing that the ordinary goodbye is nothing but extra-ordinary, the mundane is marvelous, the simple sky is spectacular and the very natural goodbye is a super-natural send off. The good Lord is smiling upon us and providing gifts and treasures of His love and grace in that last goodbye of my mother who allowed God’s massive wink to be clearly so much more with His eyes wide open and His powerful face shining upon us in the form of a full bright almost blinding rainbow.
And so it is…..well with our souls.