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Burial Liturgy of Ruth Daugherty July 23, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33; Psalm 130:1-11; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; John 11:21-27
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
As I was working yesterday
on this homily,
my computer froze,
and when I rebooted it,
my text, labeled “Ruth Daugherty,”
was now renamed
“Ruth Daugherty recovered.”
“How I wish,” I thought,  
and so do we all.
This liturgy, her funeral,
in this place where she loved to be,
          ever smiling her beautiful smile,
marks her completion of life on earth,
          a life wonderfully lived,
marks her birthing into God’s eternity,
          a joyous culmination
                   of all that has gone before.

And it gathers us,
who so loved and admired her,
into God’s compassion
          with all the fullness of emotion we bring.
Grief and
a sense of loss
          at a Ruth-sized emptiness  
                   nothing can fill;
          for her full and gracious life
                   so gladly lived in Christ;
And hope,
hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise in Christ,
          that although Ruth is gone from us,
          she is risen and rejoicing
                   in the eternity of God.
For as the Eucharistic prayer proclaims:   
when we die,
“life is changed not ended;
and when our mortal body lies in death,
there is prepared for us
          a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”      [BCP p. 382]       

So we grieve today and celebrate today,
in this time
          when we know loss and sorrow,
looking toward eternity
          where all are found,
           dwelling in everlasting joy.
And what we do today
enacts the reality we proclaim:
We greeted Ruth’s ashes at the baptismal font,
for she once passed through those waters
          into new life in Christ,
and through her baptism,
          shares in his resurrection.
We followed the Paschal candle,
symbol of the risen Christ, in procession
to place her ashes
          in the midst of this assembly
                   of which she was a member,
          the Body of Christ at Christ church,
          a symbol of the Body of Christ the whole Church
                   to which we all belong,
                   the communion of saints
                             past and present and yet to come.

We heard the living Word of God
speaking to us in the proclamation of Scripture:
          words of God’s faithfulness,
          words of God’s mercy,
          words of God’s love,
          words of eternal life.
At this table, in the bread and the wine,
we will share in the Body and Blood of Christ,
          fed by God with the very life of Jesus . . .
this holy meal an icon of and participation in
the heavenly banquet
          where all the company of saints
          in the presence of God
                   gather in feasting and song.
We will commend Ruth to God’s care,
          for she is now beyond ours,
          but never beyond our caring.
And then,
comforted, strengthened, renewed,
we will be dismissed,
sent into the world
for lives of loving service . . .
like Ruth’s.

Ruth did not want to be,
as she put it with her usual forthrightness,
“glorified in any way”
at this funeral.                                                      [Ruth’s Last Wishes]
I think all of us who knew her
would find it difficult to speak of her
without some hints of glory slipping in.
Perhaps she would not be
too annoyed with us
if we were to speak
of how the glory of God  
shone brilliantly in her and in her life . . .
if we were to speak of how she used
the gifts of intelligence, compassion, humor,
curiosity, adventure, honesty, love
entrusted to her by God.
For surely her life
was rooted and grounded
in God,
and, watered by God’s love,
bore the fruits of love,
to the glory of God.

As she wrote,
“I want my family to know that I have known love,
and that love – that of God and of my family and friends –
has been the foundation of my life.”                     [Ruth’s Last Wishes]
“ . . . love – that of God and of my family and friends –
has been the foundation of my life.”
selfless, generous, tireless love,
in her vocation as
wife, mother, grandmother;
vibrant participant in the life of this faith community
          and the Franke Tobey Jones Retirement community;
compassionate lay chaplain
          to hospital and health care center patients;
faithful companion of and chauffeur for
          Christ Church seniors,
high school teacher (that takes a lot of love!) . . .
manifest in her enjoyment of and passion for
          God’s astonishing creation,
in her hiking, gardening, birding, bicycling,
advocating for the care of the environment,
engaging with God’s peoples
          of many different cultures,
and her keen sense of justice . . .

manifest in her avid interest
          in anything worth knowing about,
her immersion in books, music, performance,
          her support of the arts . . .
manifest in the steadfastness
with which she faced suffering and loss . . .
manifest in how she responded to her final illness
          and approached her death . . .
with gratitude and confidence in God,
with care and compassion for family and friends,
          in affectionate last conversations,
          in loving candor about her wishes,
          in taking care of last things,
commending the life God had given her,
          and which she had used so well,
                   to God.

In the hospital with pneumonia
due to complications
          of chemotherapy,
she was on a ventilator.
Talking being
nearly impossible,
she communicated
by laboriously writing short notes.
The first time I visited
she wrote with characteristic directness
that her prognosis was poor,
the ventilator was a 3-5 day experiment,
and after that,
if it was not effective,
“They’d let me go.”
“No more chemo!” (exclamation point), she wrote.
“It’s what I want.”
“Have you told your children that?” I asked.
She nodded and wrote,
“I love them, so!” (another exclamation point)
I read that two ways,
because there was a comma
between them and so.
And Ruth, as we know,
was a high school teacher – of English.

Did she mean,
“I love them so very much.”
“I love them, so I have told them it’s OK to let me go.”
I think both.
On that day,
Ruth also wrote,
“In my purse there is a check for CCP”
          (Christ Church parish),
her eyes clearly adding,
“Bring me that purse.”
There ensued my futile search
for the purse.
“Green bag?” she wrote.
A nurse showed me the green hospital bag
of Ruth’s things in the closet.
I got out the purse
and we found her checkbook.
She tore out the check already written
and gave it to me.
Last things.
Her pledge must be fulfilled
as all promises she made
must be fulfilled.
She lived the Baptismal covenant,
continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
          in the breaking of bread and the prayers;
persevering in resisting evil and when she fell into sin,
          (we all do)
          repenting and returning to the Lord;
proclaiming by word and example
          the good news of God in Christ;
seeking and serving Christ in all persons,
          loving her neighbor as herself;
striving for justice and peace,
          and respecting the dignity of every human being;
cherishing the wondrous works of God,
          and protecting the beauty and integrity of all creation. 
Ruth’s stewardship,
her care for and generosity with
the life and resources God had entrusted to her
was manifest in how she lived
          and how she died,
in all the ways God’s love for her
was multiplied by her love for others.
And so,
she gave herself back to God,
and we see her no longer,
but she is at home in the Lord,
          where she is fully recovered.
And the distance between us
is bridged by love.
“Now we see in a mirror, dimly,
but then we will see face to face.
Now [we] know only in part;
then [we] will know fully,
even as [we] have been fully known.”
Jesus said to Martha,
“I am the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in me,
though they die,
will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.”
And so,
as Ruth would have us do,
we give her back to God,
and even as we do,
we make our song
“Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”