Memorial slideshows bring light into a dark time


As a pastor, funerals are part of the job description.

For many of my pastor friends, there is a certain amount of emotional distance they are able to create as they conduct funerals. They aren’t cold people at all. Some are far warmer than I am. They have simply learned certain skills that allow them to mitigate the emotional weight that comes with such moments.

While I have developed the functional skills to conduct meaningful memorial services, I don’t know that I’ll ever “get used to it.” The empathy tends to run strong in my soul when I see the heartache of a bereaved family. To a small degree, I feel their pain. Through the visitation, the memorial and the graveside services, funerals weigh heavy on my heart. There is, however, one part of funerals that I enjoy: The memorial slideshows.

Most funeral homes do a great job of collecting pictures from family and friends and organizing them into a digital presentation to show at some point in the services. Often, it is played at the beginning or end of the actual memorial service, but I love when it is shown on televisions around the room during the visitation.

It’s amazing how watching a slideshow that tells the story of the life of a loved one can bring light into a dark time. For a brief moment, tears of sorrow are often turned to joy, mourning is turned to laughter. Normally, as I sit near those who are watching the images as they pass by, I hear the stories behind them. I meet those who participated in these memorable moments.

Seeing those pictures and hearing those stories paint a picture of who that person was for me. In a small way, hearing about their thoughts, feelings and experiences allows me to join them in their story. More than that, it gives me a vantage point that allows me to observe ways in which the memorable life we are celebrating will continue on in the loved ones they have so deeply impacted.

While none of the disciples were actually present when Leonardo da Vinci painted “The Last Supper,” they were present at the actual event itself. In the absence of an artist or a photographer to capture the significance of the moment and memorialize what Jesus had done and was about to do, Jesus took two basic elements that would have probably been used at every meal and created a living picture of sorts.

Every time his disciples picked up the bread and the cup, they would be reminded of Jesus, all they experienced with him, all he promised them and that he was still present with them. It’s a picture that followers of Jesus still recreate on a regular basis in churches the world over. It’s a memorial that brings us into the story and reminds us that we carry a piece of Christ and his legacy within us.

From its inception, Memorial Day has been a time to pause and remember those who gave their lives in service to their country. This is certainly appropriate and worthy of our time and consideration. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice and modeled for us the pinnacle of Christian love.

In these moments of quiet and calm, as we gather together with friends and family, we honor their memory as we live in the very freedom they helped provide. And as we gather, it is natural for us to reminisce and remember many who have given of themselves to help us become who we are today.

Many use this time to make an annual trek to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of those special loved ones, but the very best memorials aren’t the flowers we place on a grave. The best memorials are the lives we continue to live in light of their love.

I think that was part of the charge Jesus was bringing in the Upper Room at the Last Supper. He was charging the disciples not just to remember him in the moment but to allow that memory to mobilize them into living memorable lives in light of the impact and investment he made in them. He was reminding them and reminding us today that our lives are to be living monuments.

We must remember that it is the stories we live today that will inform the memories that will remain after we’re gone. Lives aren’t simply meant to be spent. They are meant to be invested. We only get one life to live this side of eternity. Make it memorable.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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