When death occurs and a burial service is held, there is a way in which both the individual and the universal come together. The one who has passed on is an individual person with a name, a personality and a life story. Yet that one person was part of a wider community and some how represents each one of us.
The poet and preacher, John Donne, says it like this, "Any man or woman's death diminishes me because I am involved in all humankind and therefore send never to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
The death of one person changes an entire family and community, there now is an empty place where that loved one used to be. So there is real purpose in coming together today, it is comforting to honor the deceased, to acknowledge the grief and tears, to tell the stories and celebrate the life of Dorothy Nadine McMeekin.
Dorothy did not die alone, there was family and friends at her bedside and she knew them, she recognized those with her. Grief is natural and appropriate, yet we can grieve and hope all at once. We can grieve the absence and the emptiness but hope as well for the parting is not permanent.
Through prayer and words of scripture we affirm our faith in a God who is present always, everywhere. We believe there is hope in death as in life and that there is renewed life in Christ after death.
Dorothy Nadine McMeekin was born on Dec. 9, 1922 in Cowles, Nebraska, and died Dec.21, 2013 in Aberdeen, WA. Her early years were spent in Nebraska where she graduated high school. In 1943 she married Dave Bachtell in Fortuna, California, after which they moved to Montesano. They raised their children in Montesano where Dave later died.
After her marriage to John McMeekin she moved to Central Park. Dorothy thoroughly appreciated the beauty of our green places and treasured the time spent together out doors. It wasn't uncommon at all for them to on the spur of the moment pack up some basic camp and cooking gear, drive up into the hills around Lake Quinault and enjoy a hot breakfast and the beautiful scenery.
Dorothy enjoyed social gatherings, being active in the Order of Eastern Star. She taught Sunday School for many years at St. Marks as well as serving as Lay Reader and was a member of the Bishop’s Committee. She always participated in our annual Pancake Day. Her particular responsibility was stirring the leavening into the bucket of pancake batter, this being the final step before the frying, creating the very best pancakes you could possibly eat anywhere in town.
Then at an age when most people are planning to retire, she accepted the call to Diaconal Ministry for St. Marks. After studying for three years to fulfill the requirements of the Diocese she was ordained a Deacon on March 15, 1999 by Bishop Hampton, who is with us today.
In 2003 she was honored as one of three Volunteers of the Year at Monte Health and Rehab for each month serving birthday cake to the residents. Providing this birthday treat has been a ministry of St. Marks for more than 25 years. She also provided pastoral care visitation at the long term care facility for many years as well as offering a Sunday service to inmates at the County jail. Dorothy loved being a Deacon and was honored to preside at the baptisms of four great grandchildren and marriages of three grandchildren. Dorothy was active in the community of Deacons in this Diocese, always making the effort to attend the workshops and retreats. Frequently the retreats were held at the Priory Retreat Center in Lacey with silence observed from evening through morning. That created some difficulty for her and her roommate, Joyce, so they would just whisper to each other.
As I spoke with friends and family there were many stories and remembrances which may be shared during the reception following the service.
For many years the churches in Montesano have joined together for a Thanksgiving and Good Friday Community Service. Clergy and lay persons often share their personal faith stories and on one occasion Dorothy offered to do so. It takes courage to do this, you're often not in your home church, there's usually a full crowd so one is feeling a bit nervous and vulnerable. She received many favorable comments on her testimony of faith. This was her story as I remember her sharing it.
Years ago she drove from Denver, Colorado, to Charlestown, South Carolina with two little ones in the backseat to join husband, Dave. Baby Randy had been born premature only recently released from the hospital, big sister was only about three years old. Along the way they encountered a detour causing Dorothy to lose her way. A truck driver noticed something amiss, asked if he could help in any way and she explained her predicament and he said," Follow me, I'll get you where you need to go." Without hesitation she trusted this stranger having a powerful sense of God's protective presence being with her keeping her and the children safe. And they did make it safely to their destination.
Now there's a piece of this story that I had never heard, which Barbara shared with me. As young as she was she remembers portions of this road trip but her strongest memory was when she got in trouble. It seems that baby Randy was fussing and crying, feeding time being overdue as mom searched for a place to pull off the road. Big sister had just had enough of it and leaned over and bit baby's foot, of course, causing him to wail even louder. It all worked out, mom located a place to pull off the highway, she fed the baby and they were on their way again.
How many times have we found ourselves in fearful places, needing help in finding our way or wondering how to move on after a loss or personal tragedy? In Jesus words from the Gospel scripture he says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Surely the disciples were deeply troubled, for Jesus is leaving them and they do not know how they can carry on without him. He has been their constant companion for the past several years, what will happen to them?
Jesus talks about finding peace for troubled hearts, about trusting Christ and about finding the way home. Jesus is saying goodbye to his closest friends. It is the Last Supper, our Maundy Thursday, and soon Jesus will die. Their hearts are troubled, they are afraid. Why now? What next? “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many dwelling places. I go there to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be also.” Yet Thomas doesn't understand. "We don't know where you are going so how can we find the way?" Jesus assures them of a place for each of them, a place with him.
How alone and afraid Dorothy must have felt when she lost her way driving to South Carolina yet when that truck driver came to the rescue the gift of peace surely gave her the strength and courage to continue on.
Jesus’ words are trustworthy and true. Let not your hearts be troubled, for there is a place I'm preparing for you. Let not your hearts be afraid, for there is a peace I am giving you.
This is the peace that will sustain us when our hearts are troubled. This is the peace that will support us when our hearts are fearful. This is the peace that will surround us when our hearts are lonely. And it is a peace that will be with us now and forever. AMEN