SAMINTER.JTM - An brief interment ceremony originally done by
James T. McCollum for the family of a person who
died of AIDS
Mt. Hope Cemetary
21 December 1993
In the presence of life, we say no to death.
In the presence of death, we say yes to life!
We come to this place, that we may give expression to the depth of
loneliness and the longing-after-new-life which the death of
Hamish MacTaggart has brought upon us. Thus do we share the
sights and sounds of loss and comfort, of fear and courage, of
bitterness and love. But especially of love - a love which can
triumph over all pain, bringing us again to the font from which
all meaning, beauty and truth eternally flows.
No person can sum up the life of another. Life is too precious to
be passed over with mere words which ring empty. Rather, it must
remain as it is remembered by those who loved and watched and
shared. For such memories are alive, unbound by events of birth
or death. And as living memories we posses the greatest gift one
person can give to another.
It is customary for our species, when one we love dies, to bring
together those whose lives were touched significantly by the life
of the one who has died. This is the reason for a funeral or a
While such services have been understood in many varying ways, the
human function is to set an experiential marker at the end point
of life to place a cairn at the conclusion of one human being's
The cairns along a wilderness trail are built of rocks of various
shapes and sizes. The memorial cairn at the end of a life is also
a composite, but an experiential one. It is made up of the
memories, the thoughts and the feelings of all who are gathered to
celebrate the life of the departed. It is a recollection of what
was for a time together and is now scattered and scattering. Here
is the one we knew. We think of how our lives were touched by him
and what he meant and his memory continues to mean to us.
At the end of a life, we compose a symphony, an ordered creation
whose notes and themes are the experiences of the people gathered.
Themes dark and bright are sounded to recollect and order the
impact of the life of the one who has died - honestly, fully,
tenderly - and in the spirit of thanksgiving for the quality of
that lived life.
Our recollections of Hamish should strive to evoke rememberance,
thanksgiving, a sense of the uniqueness of his life, a sense of
the privilege of having known him, a sense of loss, of sadness, a
feeling of emptiness, of unsureness and a hint that the ending of
his life is a rehearsal of what is to come for everyone of us,
Transcending our memories of Hamish should be a developing sense
of trust in the slow, but steady, grace of healing and the
affirmation that we live on and will live on, blessed by his life
and by the memory of he who once was and is now gone, but who is
and will be present in the world and in us in mysterious and
We should also be mindful that existance, ours included, is a
continuum, ever changing, yet, in a real sense, not really. Elder
Olson put it so well in "The Exegesis:"
Nothing is lost; be still; the universe is honest.
Time, like the sea, gives all back in the end,
But only in its own way, on its own conditions:
Empires as grains of sand, force as coal,
Mountains as pebbles. Be still, be still, I say;
You were never the water, only a wave;
Not substance, but a form substance assumed.
And in the words of Langston Hughes:
Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing -
Never to kill -
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same -
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.
Finally, it is important to remember that, albeit death awaits all
of us along the path of life, it is, nonetheless, part and parcel
of life. For without it, there would be no life. And as stated
by one far more eloquent than I:
Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life.
In it's brief course lies all the verities and realities of
your existence: The bliss of growth, the glory of action,
the splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a
vision; but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a
dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day!
In placing the ashes of Hamish MacTaggart in this hollowed ground,
we think again of all that our dear son, brother, companion and
friend meant and means to us. We dedicate this simple plot, amid
these natural surroundings, to every beautiful and precious memory
associated with him.
We lay these ashes in that gentle earth which has been the chief
support of humankind, since first they walked beneath the sun. To
all human beings, to all living forms, the soil has ever provided
the sustenance that is the staff of life. To that good earth we
now commit the ashes of our friend and say with the poet Shelley:
He made one with Nature: there is heard.
His voice in all her music, from the moan.
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known.
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone....
He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely.
Now the work is left to us, the living, to carry forth the beauty
and joy of that life which has been taken from us. Where we weep,
Hamish would have us laugh. Where we mourn, Hamish would have us
rejoice. But we know that he will forgive us our grief, for to
grieve is to love, to love is to cherish, and to cherish is to
give praise and thanksgiving for the life which has blessed us
To that life we pray courage and strength, that our frailty be
forgiven, our sorrows redeemed, the wounds of our loss healed, in
the sure knowledge that life moves forward and does not tarry with
yesterday, and that the life before us beckons to greater glory as
the only memorial that is fitting and just.
Let us depart in peace and look to the morning, assured that
tomorrow the sun will rise again. Life gives and life takes away:
Blessed be life, above all, forever.
May the truth that makes us free, the hope that never dies and the
love that casts out fear lead us forward together until the
dayspring breaks, and the shadows flee away. Amen.