Holidays are generally thought of as happy times for family and friends — but when you have experienced a death in the family, getting through the holidays can be painful and lonely. That was the thinking behind a candlelighting memorial service I played last night at Iolani School, with The Rev. Diane Martinson-Koyama, our Lutheran chaplain, in charge. People who had experienced a loved one’s death this past year were especially invited to come and light a candle in their memory. The program had this quote from theologian Frederick Buechner:
“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am in who you are. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.”
When I was first approached a couple of weeks ago about this service, I had no idea what music I would play. I still wanted to play music that was appropriate for Advent but somehow wanted to tie it into the memorial theme. So last night when I grabbed a bunch of music to play, I pulled out a collection of Advent chorale preludes and turned to “Comfort, comfort ye my people” set by Egil Hovland. I used this as a prelude to the service, and found that the text was perfect for this occasion:
Comfort, comfort ye my people; tell of peace so says our God. Comfort those who sit in darkness mourning under sorrow’s load. To God’s people now proclaim that God’s pardon waits for them! Tell them that their war is over; God will reign in peace forever.
Of course, this verse from Isaiah 40:1 is appointed for the Second Sunday in Advent, Year B, and could not be more perfect. As it turned out, the people in the chapel were sitting in darkness, so it made it all the more effective (although I don’t know whether anyone out there recognized what I was playing!) People were invited to make luminaries with their loved one’s names on it and light candles at a particular time in the service. I made a luminary for my mother, Dorothy Chiu Au, who died on June 29th, 2011.
I also played Bach’s slow, ornamented setting of “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,” BWV 659 (Come now, Savior of the heathen) which I had played during communion at the 10:30 am service that morning as well as a setting of “Creator of the stars of night,” another Advent hymn:
Creator of the stars of night, your people’s everlasting light, O Christ, redeemer of us all, we pray you hear us when we call.
Who knew that the music of Advent would be so perfect for a memorial service?