I was blessed to have all four grandparents alive until I had reached my thirties. However, because they were in my life for so long, losing three of them over the years has been hard. “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Grandma R's funeral was an especially intense experience because she was the first of my grandparents to go, and her death came rather suddenly. (I had just talked to her about doing a family history video where I asked her and Grandpa questions. She died less than two weeks later. I'm still sad that I never got to follow through with that idea!) It was also emotionally, mentally and spiritually draining for me because I had been asked to represent the cousins by giving a tribute at the funeral.
By the time we had the funeral and the graveside service, it was well past lunchtime, and I was exhausted. I was grateful for the chance to sit, and to eat. It was wonderful to be together in that cultural hall, basking in the love we feel as an extended family. We had the usual meal ham, funeral potatoes, rolls, and so on. It was delicious.
But what I remember most was my dessert. I had chosen a tasty, homemade ‘oreo' cookie (makes my jaws water just thinking about it). But it's not the yumminess of the cookie that made it so memorable (although it really was yummy!). As I savored the soft, sweet sandwich, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude and a bit of awe. A woman I don't know, who doesn't know me, spent a lot of time and love making these cookies. It was a simple, even silly thought, perhaps, but yet it overcame me to think of the effort she put forth on our behalf.
That cookie became a sort of symbol to me of the love of people who made it possible for us as a family to sit together and rest and simply feel cared for and nurtured. They took care of our physical need for food so that we could be with each other and feel the healing power of love and of the Spirit as we gathered together.
Shortly after Grandma's funeral, I was asked to teach in Relief Society. The lesson must have been on service or something related, because I talked about this experience, and how touched I was by this simple, possibly even routine act of providing food for a funeral meal.
And while I have since repented of the felt need to make handouts in Relief Society, I'm still sort of glad I made them when I taught this time, because I think it was a little bit of inspiration that was worth sharing. I wrapped up a couple of OREO cookies (the packaged kind) and attached a little paper with the following printed on it:
Sister Marjorie Hinckley was known to say, “Oh, how we need each other!” Indeed. And we may never know how simple acts of service and kindness may touch someone's heart and life. I wish that woman who made the homemade oreos could know what her cookie meant to me.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren [or perhaps done one of the least acts of service?], ye have done it unto me.
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.