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A privileged accompaniment

Olivia Vercoe  |  23 August 2020

There’s a compassion in the way Jenny Rose shares her stories with me.

Over the years she has participated in many celebrations, both joyful and sad, and her stories of those celebrations highlight just how beautiful they can be. Let’s start with the story of Jack*.

Diagnosed with a terminal illness when he was four years old, Jack’s life ended far too quickly. When he was one, Jenny had participated in the marriage of Jack’s parents, so knew the family well. She accompanied them through the difficult time of mourning, and helped them prepare a service in his remembrance.

‘Funerals are a space for tears to be honoured, and a holding of regret and anger’, says Jenny. ‘It’s a huge responsibility and a great privilege to do it right. People will remember it with gratitude.’

A funeral is a time of sadness, but it’s also a time to celebrate the love, memories and legacy a person leaves behind. In Jack’s funeral service, Jenny says they wanted to celebrate the memories of joy and beauty that he gave so many, and above all his love.

‘In the service, we lit a small candle to symbolise the delicate life that was unable to stay alight’, says Jenny. ‘I got the dad to light it.’

‘At the end, the parents blew out the candle. And there were 22 children at that funeral – all cousins. I had all these little packets of bubbles so when they tuned the coffin around, and it had Paddington bear on it, 22 children followed blowing all their bubbles.’

Jenny believes that God speaks to us through the celebrations we create. They are an essential part of Christianity, but also to all communities of people.

‘This is what God wants us to be isn’t it?’ asks Jenny. ‘Jesus said he gave us an abundant life, whatever that means for people. For me it means having Jesus as part of my life, but also laughter and happiness and celebration in all the really good things we share. I think life would be pretty drab and boring if we had nothing to celebrate or be joyful about.’

Jenny shares the story of John, a 52-year-old man who knew he was dying and used the time he had left to prepare everyone in the community for his death. Sherry (his wife) was even given the key to his shed where he had all his precious electrical tools. He gave her a quick crash-course on how to use them all.

Jenny says both of them were able to ‘break the silence of death’, and be open about what was happening with the people around them.

‘It was quite confronting really’, she says. ‘It supported the community on the most profound level. He showed us how to live as he celebrated each moment he had.’

She shares a story of the time John went to the cemetery to see who he would be buried next to. Looking at the tombstones, he said, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s OK. I can be next to Dean.’

He then mused to his wife, ‘It’s a new part of the cemetery and I’m really near the toilet. I think they should move the toilet.’

Sherry replied, ‘No John I think that’s a really good place for you to be because you spend so much time there emptying all your bags and tubes.’

John voiced his other concern to Sherry, ‘Well I’m worried people will forget me.’

‘No one will forget you love’, Sherry replied, ‘because they have to walk past your grave to get to the toilet.’

John was happy with that. 

 

*The names in the stories have been change to respect the privacy of those involved.

 

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