26 June, 2017

The gift of being able to be present

People come and go in our lives; celebrations happen, then are over;
time moves relentlessly onwards. It is good to sit, sometimes, and ponder.
Being able to be present at key events in loved-ones lives is a gift I no
longer overlook.
Yesterday I attended a memorial service for the Japanese missionary, Mr I, from our mission who died in April. At the time his funeral was held in Nagoya, only two days after he passed away. Yesterday they held a memorial service in Tokyo where and when many others could attend. I'd never met the man personally, only been at a meeting where he spoke, but I was asked to go as the pianist for the performance of "For the Cause" that OMF missionaries had been invited to perform.

OMF is an interesting mission in that many of the countries we work in also send missionaries to other places. That is the case in Japan. We have both a "home" office and a "field" office in the same building. Mr I and his family had been serving in another East Asian country, but battled his cancer in Japan. The OMFers who performed were from a variety of homesides, some sent to Japan, others sent from Japan.

What particularly struck me were the missionaries who came from overseas to this memorial service. They didn't come far, not as far as the Scottish pastor who flew over when our field director died, but they came. These were colleagues of Mr I, people who'd served with him overseas.

I was struck because there are a number of funerals I haven't been able to attend because of distance. During the 17 ½ years David and I have been in Japan four of our OMF Japan colleagues have died (if my count is right). All were cancer-related. That's not counting relatives and friends who have died. Often distance or finances or schedules prevent us from being present. It isn't easy. Funerals and memorial services have a place in the grieving process and when you can't go to one, there is no space to remember that person in community with others who knew them. Life moves on at a rapid space as if nothing happened, as if the world wasn't the poorer for the passing away of someone. 

It's a source of grief for missionaries as we miss many key events in the lives of those we care for, including funerals, but also births, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc. As our circles are widened, by serving with people from many different nations, we "acquire" more people we care about and more events that we cannot be a part of.

So, I'm simply grateful that I could, in a small way, help others grieve yesterday. And in a similar way to how weddings I've attended after I myself was a married woman made me reminisce about my own wedding, this memorial service made me reflective about all the funerals that I've missed over the years. Being able to be present is easily overlooked as a gift to be treasured.

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