The congregation where I serve is a happy place. It is casual and very down to earth, full of people who are genuine and joyful. Monica was one of those people.
Helping and giving were Monica’s favourite things to do. She became the church’s envelope secretary, thanking people for their gifts to the church and making sure that tax receipts went out on time. She was ordained as an elder and almost never missed a meeting or an opportunity to volunteer her time (see the photo of her helping at the local clothing swap for low income families. She’s third from the left). Monica helped at Lobster Dinners, served on our Uganda mission committee, and hosted funeral receptions. She gave generously to people travelling on mission trips and had great fun with her friends in the choir and the band.
Monica gave in quieter ways, too. When she noticed that a young college student in the choir seemed underdressed for the winter weather, she made sure he got a warmer coat. When a young Indian man new to Canada had nowhere to celebrate, she invited him to her home for Christmas dinner. When a friend called in tears, she was always ready to listen.
Last summer, we heard about her diagnosis: brain cancer. She didn’t pursue aggressive treatments and lived far longer than the doctors predicted. In the past year she remained upbeat and terribly practical. She was not one to wallow in self pity (her obituary was a testament to that). Monica was eager for a reunion with her husband Dick, who had died not long before. She knew she didn’t leave behind any dependants. And she had a whole lot of questions for Jesus.
When she died at Ian Anderson House earlier this week, we knew that she had prearranged everything–she had even ordered her own flowers. But a community who loses someone so special needs to grieve, so we set to work on two things for her memorial service. We got baking squares and cookies because Monica loved food, and we made plans to decorate the church sanctuary.
This morning I went out into my garden and chose the prettiest peony blooms that were just opening up. I put them into a jug of lukewarm water and took them over to the church.
There I found two women who had been arranging everyone’s contributions–peony of every shade and shape, plus branches of pink wigelia and deep red sandcherry, purple iris and loads of greenery. There were arrangements on every window sill and a huge vase near the pulpit. The church looked beautiful.
The finest flowers from the best florist shop in town could not rival those arrangements. Because our flowers, from our own gardens, were gifts of love. They were personal offerings of gratitude for the life of a woman who showed us what God’s grace looks like in everyday life. They were generously given to honour a woman who was herself wonderfully generous. Those flowers were also humble and not too fancy–just like Monica.
Like I said, I finally found a good reason to cut the beautiful blooms from my garden. And I did happily, if with a gentle pang of grief.