Living a God Moment…
by Kari Snyder
A few years ago, I had the honor of attending the funeral of Prince of Peace elder. She was a beautiful, wise, God-loving, family-loving, considerate and faith-filled woman. She passed away at the age of ninety-six. I was lucky enough to be one of many who would visit her on a regular basis, where she lived at Apple Valley Care Center. She was one of those delightful people who, upon leaving, made you stop and realize that you actually felt better about not only yourself, but about life in general. My visits with her made me dig deeper into my faith, my relationship with family, and my love of God. She was one-in-a-million.
So, on a breezy and lovely Minnesota day (how fitting for this special lady), her service at Lakewood Cemetery was conducted. It was led by one of the chaplains from Apple Valley Care Center, who, it was obvious, had been blessed to have spent time with her. There was an abundance of scripture that was read by many family members. There were family members playing the guitar. And there were many, many people who were packed into the small but, oh, so stunning chapel.
If you have ever been inside the Lakeside Cemetery chapel, you know that it looks like something straight out of Europe. The marble floors, in addition to the delicate and all-encompassing tile-work, nearly take your breath away. The quaintness of the rounded ceilings allowed one to feel a sense of security within the structure. I had never been to this chapel and was taken-aback by the beauty that sits right next to Lake Calhoun.
And so the funeral progressed, much the way I expected a funeral for a very old person to move along. Family was critical to her and it was fitting that so many of her grandchildren and an even a great-grandchild were active participants in the service. But it was the actions of one great-grandchild, a senior in high-school, which made such an impact on me.
I had thought that this grandmother’s death, a woman who had seen nearly ten decades of life, would not be a tremendous surprise to her family. So when this young woman stepped forward, clearly trying to keep her composure, I was reminded again how important Grandma was to her family. Though she may have been ninety-six years old, her death brought sadness to those who loved her so very much. This great-granddaughter moved to the front of the chapel to sing “Amazing Grace.” She had the keyboardist play the first two notes, as she planned to sing it acapella. She gathered herself and sang the first two lines. Then, her voice disappeared and she stopped. Again, she tried to sing, asking the keyboardist to give her direction and she began the song. Her voice quivered and tears overcame her.
The chapel was absolutely silent. Then, from the second row, a man I would guess to be her father, walked up and stood alongside her. He wrapped his arm around her as a gesture to see if she was alright. They stood together for what seemed like minutes, just breathing. Then, taking a brave deep breath, the young woman started to sing. But her voice once again became silent. At that same moment, the father began to sing. Before he could begin the third word of the song, the once-quiet congregation—all clearly moved by this moment—spontaneously began to sing. Nothing but God-filled voices, both young and old, filled the chapel. The words of “Amazing Grace” resonated along the curves of the ceiling and flowed back to each and every one of us seated in that room. No one could have planned for that to happen. It was an absolute God moment.
I have sung “Amazing Grace” many, many times. It is one of my favorite songs to sing with our seniors in memory care…because it so familiar to them and brings great peace and comfort. I have a feeling that I have been singing it so I could be a part of what happened. You see, there were no hymnals or words printed out for us to read from. We sang all the verses from memory. And there were enough of us that knew all the verses to be sure that every word of the entire song was sung. I hope this unique experience honored her memory. I am inclined to think that she was up in heaven, smiling down, so proud that her great-granddaughter led an entire congregation to sing that song without ever knowing that was the true and intended plan.
What a gift.
What a God moment.
I am blessed.
Kari Snyder is the Senior Adult Program Coordinator at Prince of Peace.