Parishioner Anne Lambrecht’s mother, Nancy Marrow, will be laid to rest on Monday, January 6, in Maryland. Her ashes will be inurned at the Naval Academy. I helped Anne plan an order of service which an Episcopal deacon will perform at her retirement home. Nancy, a dyed-in-the-wool Episcopalian, would appreciate the service that we created for her.
An interesting aspect of this funeral service is that it falls on the actual date of the Feast of the Epiphany. I’ve been pondering what it means to be buried on the Epiphany. What connections, if any, exist between the feast day and the celebration of Nancy’s life?
We celebrate, on the Epiphany, the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. Namely, the Magi bearing gifts, traveled from afar to worship the new born child. You’ve probably heard a Christmas carol with words such as those. “Epiphany” means a moment of sudden understanding or a revelation. I have often wondered whether or not the Magi knew what they were getting into. There were no cell phones or Twitter accounts or even telephones (you may have to explain that term to the younger children). They were led by a star, not a GPS. Traveling into a foreign country, they continued until they met, with some resistance at the door, Jesus’ mother, Mary. Once she understood in her heart that they were not there to purchase Jesus, but rather to pay him homage, they were allowed entrance. I think at that moment, they had an Epiphany, the sudden realization that God had been born into human flesh. It was something that their ancestors had longed for, and now, they were present to witness it. Wham-o! It was a sudden moment of understanding – God so loved the world that he sent his only son. And when we think of the world, it also means you and me, individually, that God loved so, so much. Wham-o! It could hardly have been more startling; they must have realized they had inadvertently become a part of history and would never be forgotten.
By the way, if I could rename certain Church days, I’d rename Epiphany to Wham-o. Believe me, unlike Epiphany, Wham-o sings well and rhymes with a number of Latin/Italian phrases, but I digress.
A lot has been written about Steve Jobs and his death. One such account discusses the look on his face right before he died. It was as though he was seeing beauty for the first time. His expression was similar to how youngsters look when they walk into Disneyland for the first time. It was a wham-o experience.
Nancy, I believe, had a couple of experiences in her life that were truly sudden moments of understanding of God’s love and grace. I’d be willing to bet that the first time she held her daughter, Anne, in her arms, she felt the beauty and wonder and love of God. But wait, says God, there’s more. Watching Anne and her brother grow and mature, truly by forces beyond her ability and control, I imagine she had another epiphany, at least one more. And then, much later on, she got to hold her granddaughter. Many grandparents tell me that they came to understand God’s love in a sudden and overwhelming moment when they held their grandchild for the first time. Wham-o.
Despite these moments, nothing could prepare Nancy for the glories that are to come. She did not want restorative care after she suffered a stroke last month. I am certain that Nancy trusted in God’s grace and in the heavenly place prepared for her and thus decided to let go. Her daughter and granddaughter grown and independent, her time had come to make a journey and follow the star of Christ.
Nancy now waits with all others who have followed that same star, waiting also for us to follow. Which we will. I am certain of that, too.
- Fr. Marshall