I never knew Pat Guest. The first time I met her she was lying in her bed at Waterford, unable to talk or communicate with me. She was small, quiet, and peaceful. Her face and body were calm—it was as if she knew her life had been well lived and she was readying herself for her reward—entrance into that heavenly place where sorrow is no more, where dying and tears and grief are no more and the pain of life becomes the joy of eternity.
Its not always that way: So often people fight death—there is no peace—and our hearts break in our helplessness and loss. We are robbed of our power to make things better. Because only God can make things better; only God—the source of our comfort, our peace, our salvation—can bring us to that place that we all desire so earnestly but declare not yet, not yet. We claim to make our song Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia even at the grave and we do so because we trust the promises of God that death is not the end, that we are all part of the resurrection, that we too shall be raised up.
Death is part of life and life is part of death—it is the great rhythm of being. Twenty years ago this Advent, Pat gave a gift in memory of her late husband, Zach, to support and establish a concert series that many of us know and love: The Trawick Advent Recital. Her gift, not simply of money but also of her presence has offered a space for quiet refreshment and renewal in a season packed with busyness and consumerism. The Recital Series has become a place to remember our longing for Christ as we prepare for his coming again.
As with many things that happen in the Church and the world, you can never know or even guess at the full impact a gift can make. Pat’s gift is no exception. The Trawick Advent Recital Series has touched many souls. This past year after the death of June Scott, her family was inspired to help support the series that Pat began those many years ago and subsequently the series will now be called The Trawick – Scott Advent Recital Series. Pat’s love and support of music is a legacy shared by so many in this Church and an opportunity to be drawn into relationship with God and one another as the Trawick and Scott families have so lovingly demonstrated to all of us.
And it is this sense of relationship and how Pat understands relationship that gives us some insight into what she believed about death. Death does not mean we are no longer in relationship; it simply means that our relationship has changed. But it has not stopped. Pat requested the short essay “Death is Nothing At All…” be printed on her bulletin by Rev. Henry S. Holland who says about our relationship after death, “there is absolutely unbroken continuity.” Though we are different with one another now. Those who remain in this life bear the burden of our earthly presence. They are the ones who keep our laughter and silly jokes alive; our name remains on their lips; their children wear the dresses we have so lovingly sewn; their families share the memories of their life together. And those who go on before us help to remind us of the way to Jesus. Our relationship hasn’t ended—in many ways it has deepened. And in that depth, we are drawn closer to God, closer into the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases and the hope that we have in him. And as our hearts are drawn to God—as our souls seek him—we find ourselves assured in the salvation of the Lord and in his compassion whenever we grieve.
Pat was good at relationships—I didn’t have to know her to know that. On the day of my visit with her, she had a steady stream of visitors—especially the staff of Waterford who just wanted to make sure she knew they loved her. And in the end, that is really what it is all about—our relationships, our ability to connect to others. Because that connection isn’t severed when we leave this world instead it is even more significantly grounded in Christ and the love we have for Christ and one another. Paul asks the Romans “what can separate us from the love of Christ?” And then answers his own question, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We are not separated from God or even one another in death—instead, we are “somewhere very near, just around the corner…all is well.” Amen.
A homily on the occasion of the Burial Rite for Patricia Trawick Guest
Church of the Ascension – Episcopal, Montgomery, AL
Monday, June 10, 2019
The Rev. Candice B. Frazer