I am so touched I just want to cry right now.
My relatives in Salt Lake City (who are not church goers) went at my urging to St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown SLC today to talk about a funeral for my brother-in-law, E. Ray. He was a former Mormon who converted to the Episcopal church after marrying my sister, Leslie, over fifty years ago. He and I have gone to St. Mark’s several times together to the 8 am Sunday service when I’ve visited Salt Lake and he introduced me to Dean Waldon there and also to a young woman priest. In fact, that same woman priest (forgive me that I can’t remember her name) came and gave Last Rites to my sister when she was dying – a very moving experience for all of our family who were gathered around her bed – and that same priest officiated at St. Mark’s for Leslie’s funeral.
E. Ray has not attended St. Mark’s regularly in a while since he’s been out and about proceeding with his mission of living life to the fullest. This was one of the many reasons my sweet niece, nephew and my nephew’s wife were a bit reticent to have the funeral at the church. They also weren’t certain that a high mass was what they wanted to commemorate their dad. Still, after considering that a funeral needed to take place somewhere for E. Ray, who was born in SLC and knows many, many people, they agreed to at least go talk to the people at St. Mark’s. Which brings me to my tears.
Unbeknownst to any of us (including me who should be aware of these things), the National Convention of the entire Episcopal church in the United States is taking place in Salt Lake City this upcoming week. As a result, St. Mark’s had made a decision not to have any funerals or weddings during this time since it’s the cathedral in downtown SLC and would be busy with convention events. However – because this is E. Ray – they are making an exception to this rule. They have said they can’t host anything inside the church because of all the activities, but that they would be happy for the service to take place on their grounds at the site of their labyrinth. As it turns out, this is the absolute perfect spot for E. Ray. He loved the outdoors and his children and their families feel as if this suits him/them better anyway.
My tears are for two reasons. Of course, I am delighted to know that my Salt Lake City family will have a spot for their dad’s funeral that suits them perfectly. That makes me exceedingly happy. However, what makes me even happier is what a warm and kind reception they received from Dean Waldon and the staff at St. Mark’s, who surely are very busy right now preparing for the national convention. My family said that the Dean could not have been kinder or more open to helping figure out how to make E. Ray’s memorial service happen on their grounds despite the “rule” they had in place for this upcoming week. This example of Christian love and charity makes me proud to be an Episcopalian. More importantly, it demonstrates for my family the very essence of what it is to be a Christian: to love and honor others when it isn’t particularly convenient to do so.
As a result, I am filled with gratitude this evening. Thank you, St. Mark’s Cathedral and Dean Waldon. Your kindness softens my family’s loss as we gather this upcoming weekend to celebrate E. Ray’s life.