Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Father Mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
Even as a child I found these words immensely sad. This week as I've been pondering the graveside service I will conduct tomorrow, I was reminded of a funeral I conducted a couple of years back for a real life Eleanor Rigby, an elderly woman, estranged for her relatives whose funeral was arranged by her solicitor. I had anticipated the funeral party consisting of me, the undertaker and crematorium organist and wrote some words accordingly. In the end a nephew and his wife arrived, along with one neighbour - even this seemingly unloved woman had someone who wanted to say goodbye to her.
Today I will prepare my liturgy for tomorrow. For now I offer, tentatively and in case it is of use to someone else, my liturgy for Eleanor Rigby and others like her. Parts have been adapted from Baptist sources, so please don't sue me for plagiarism!
Apologies for any odd formatting - I still haven't learned properly how to juggle the html on things I paste in from word processing software
Opening Sentences and Readings
Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die.’ He also said ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’
We are here to say farewell to FULL NAME and to give thanks to God for HER/HIS life.
As we do so, we acknowledge that there have been difficulties, that perhaps mistakes were made or potential left unfulfilled, yet we want to acknowledge NAME’s life and to commend HER/HIM to God’s mercy and compassion
We are here in the presence of our God who has said ‘I will not fail you or desert you.’
Loving God, we come to you in need of your help at this time.
You have given us life and now we face the mystery of death, isolation and abandonment.
Help us to find you in the whole of life, its beginning and its ending.
Help us to discover you in our pain as well as our joy, in our doubts as well as our faith, in our confusion and sadness as well as our confidence, that we might find comfort in your words and new hope in Christ.
We make our prayer in Jesus’ name
Bible reading – Psalm 139, selection
LORD, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions.
Even before I speak, you already know what I will say.
You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.
You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart.
When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there, you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.
Gracious God, we thank you for life of FULL NAME.
We know nothing of HER/HIS life, yet we are sure that SHE/HE has known times of great joy, moments of laughter and happiness and the love of another. You know all that SHE/HE has been, and we pray that those who have known HER/HIM may, in time, be comforted by good memories.
We suspect that there have been failures and struggles for HER/HIM and those who loved HER/HIM. Help them to come to terms with their bad memories and to be healed of their hurt.
We pray for your comfort and strength for HER/HIS family at this time.
Now that HER/HIS earthly life has ended, we commend NAME to you, trusting in your love and compassion.
As the moment comes when we let NAME go, be with us, guiding and strengthening us, helping us to grow in knowledge and love.
For we pray in Jesus’ name.
Now having commended NAME to God’s mercy and compassion, we commit HER/HIS body to be cremated. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
We leave this service chastened in our own attitudes, reminded of the vulnerability of human life and the importance of love and forgiveness. Love is never changed by death; nothing of Love is ever lost through death; and the end is the harvest of a new beginning.
As we leave, we do so enfolded in the unfailing love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.