When Hal called me to tell me Maggie had died, he also asked if I would officiate at her funeral. I was honored to be asked, and because Maggie and I had read a lot of Scripture together, I knew some of the readings that were meaningful to her. I also knew that she would want her funeral to be a celebration of her life, so that is what I focused on in planning the service.
I worked with Hal and Katie in the preparations to make sure that anything that they wanted would be included, and Katie arranged for someone to sing a couple of her mother’s favorite hymns.
Because of Hal’s professed atheism, I wasn’t sure how all this religious stuff was going to go down with him, but he said it was okay. “This is for Maggie. This is what she wanted.”
So the service started with “Amazing Grace” and a prayer. Then some readings. Then I gave the eulogy and a reflection on the past three years of knowing Maggie and how her life had blessed my life. I reminded her sons and daughters how much she loved them and how we prayed frequently for their well being. I asked them to honor her and her memory by finding a way to be at peace with each other, and with Hal, because no matter what they thought of him, he did love their mother intensely.
Following my talk, I invited people to come up to share memories and reflections. After a few people spoke, Hal stepped up to the lectern. He briefly addressed some of the problems the family had been experiencing, and asked the children to take my words to heart.
Then he talked about how important prayer had been to Maggie and how he had always respected that, even though he was not a man of prayer himself. Then he turned to where I was seated behind him and said, “What do you think, Chaplain? Should we say one more prayer for Maggie?”
He took me by the hand and led me over to the casket. We stood there for a moment, and I couldn’t speak over the lump in my throat. Then Hal took a deep breath and said the most beautiful prayer
Ah, Maggie, I thought, this is your reason why.