Come Together Right Now Over Me: Funeral Remarks for My Son

[Note: I wanted to share with you my lightly edited transcript of the remarks I gave at our son Parker’s  funeral in July of 2007. I’m telling you they’re lightly edited because you have to understand: This was our child’s funeral. We were speaking. We had not eaten, drunk, slept, or walked but in ragged spurts for a week. In addition, the day of the viewing, my mother had been raced to the emergency room with kidney stones, and our two youngest had been convulsing on the bathroom floor, vomiting and panting, hours on end. I had no computer. I had no resource material but my scriptures and a soul gouged raw. So I’ve corrected some inconsistencies and repetitions and tightened a turn of phrase here and there.

Otherwise, this is the manuscript I managed to scratch out from where I hunkered on the laundry room floor listening to my two precious living sons moan with nausea an arm’s length away. I wrote with a broken pen on a yellow legal pad I’d grabbed from my Dad’s desk. I’ve carried that yellow paper, folded, in a front closure of my scriptures ever since.]

Rite on the Oslo Fjord

Ten and a half years ago, eight-year-old Parker was baptized in a chapel in Sandvika, Norway.  In preparing for that important rite in our religion, Parker told us that he had a couple of particular wishes, foremost of which was to invite everyone. Inviting everyone meant drawing together people from neither our national culture nor our religion to witness and participate in an intimate ritual.

His baptism was intimate, because there were sermons and musical numbers directed just to Parker, and because Randall, Parker’s father – not the congregation’s priest or pastor – performed the baptism himself. Parker thought it would be the perfect chance to get everyone together. This boy just loved bringing everyone together.

What a sight it was on a cold February day in Norway to see clusters and streams of “everyone” arriving at that little chapel on the banks of the Oslo fjord. His eight-year-old friends and their families, some dressed in Norwegian traditional costumes, gathered as if for a national celebration in our modest Mormon meeting house. The event was pure joy.

Rite in the Rockies

You, too, have been personally invited by Parker to gather from around the globe and in clusters and streams today. And what else would Parker have ever wanted, but that everyone from all over be with him, even if it is a closing rite for Parker.

I know he’s wanted you here, because all this week I’ve heard a specific Beatle tune looping in my head. Now I’m not sure, but if I knew the Beatles any better, I’d guess the text is probably all about drugs or something. Still, the chorus has not left me, not once. Parker has even been singing to me: “Come together right now over me.”

Come together. Right now. Over him.

Because of your love for him, you’ve come here on Parker’s behalf. Our Parker was a true friend to those who were in distress or need. People found comfort and solace in his presence because he was so closely in tune with the Spirit that his path was clearly lit, and he drew others onto that path with him. He wishes today, above all, that people come together, and in coming together, that we will participate in a sacred spot in time.

What is a sacred spot it time? Let’s visit, or revisit, our Bible for a moment. It’s full of sacred spots in time – rare, potent pin points where people come together and share in learning the most important truths. For me, one of the most meaningful examples from the New Testament has been a personal guide to me for many years.

It’s a story about a heightened moment.  It’s marked by anguish and hope, death and life, grief and joy that meet at a sharp edge of an hour or so. You might remember the story in John. It is an account of a family – two sisters and a brother, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus – all devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.

The scene filled my mind  just over a week ago as I was racing alone and in anguish for nearly five hours through the middle of the night from my parents’ home in central Utah where I had just arrived on vacation to a regional medical center in southeastern Idaho where Parker’s comatose body had just arrived via medical helicopter. In my life I’d been in Idaho exactly one time previously, just the day before. I’d visited Parker at his college apartment to spend three hours with him on the afternoon of Wednesday, had then left him with an extra firm hug,  and caught a glimpse of big, happy Parker drumming a beat on his thigh as he disappeared in my rear view mirror.

Martha, Mary, Lazarus

As you might recall from the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. But when Jesus got word that Lazarus was ill to dying, instead of coming right away, he abode two days still in the same place, and allowed this close friend to die. In fact, Jesus stayed away until the fourth day, which, according to Jewish custom, was the day of official death. The day grievers stopped visiting the grave.  The day it was too late.

When Martha, torn open with anguish, learned that Jesus was finally arriving in Bethany where they lived, she ran out on the road to meet him, pleading, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, but I know that even now, whatsoever thou will ask of God, God will give it to thee.” Martha saith unto Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day;” and finally, “Yea Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”

In a rented Dodge Durango SUV on Interstate I-15 in the deep black of the desert, I was Martha. In desperation and steely faith I was rushing to grab the Savior by the shoulders and plead with Him. “I know. I know. I believe that thou art the Christ, and I believe that thou wilt save my son.”

In the Intensive Care Unit in the Portneuf Regional Medical Center in Pocatello, where many also came together over Parker, we experienced a sacred spot in time.  Death and life hung in suspended animation. I felt it, many there felt it. It was as if we stood before a tomb, and there, amid many attending to Parker, I continued calling out in my mind to my God, “I know. I know. I believe that thou art the Christ, and I believe that thou wilt save my son.”

This Martha, the one of the Bible, saw the full healing of her beloved Lazarus. And that miracle offered everyone present a sacred spot in time.

This Martha, however, [pointing to myself], did not. Are we not, however, also standing in a sacred spot in time?

Here, we might be asking ourselves some questions: “Isn’t life cruel, random, indiscriminate?” Or, “Does wishful pleading ever make a bit of difference? Are such pleas even heard?” Or, “If pleas are heard,  what failed here? God Himself? Did this Martha’s faith fail?”

What is the Greater Miracle?

I feel to answer those questions with yet another question, one whispered into my ear by the wisest woman that I know. She asked me this as we stood side by side in the hospital over the beautiful, strong, but comatose body of my precious boy. “Which,” she asked me, “is the greater miracle; healing or comfort?”

More than her own life, that Martha like this one wanted her beloved’s healing. More than anything, both Marthas knew healing was possible. That Martha got her healing, her brother. Lazarus rose to new life.

I, however, am left with this cold casket.  And in more ways than symbolically, l have died. I can feel it in my limbs, my heart, my cells, in my struggle for breath. I am in as great a need for healing as was Lazarus. I will need a miracle,  a new life, resuscitation.

So maybe the question is not what is the greater miracle, healing or comfort. Maybe the question is is there a difference between the two? Are they not both gifts of God, sprung from love, against all odds, and toward new life? As one minister wrote: “Resurrection is for both sides of the tomb.” I – we all – will need to be resurrected from this emotional death just as Martha’s Lazarus was brought out of the tomb.

Sacred Spots in Time

And now as I stand here before you I find that I am the other sister. I am Mary, who days after Lazarus’ miraculous rebirth, and only days before she knew that Christ was going to be crucified, invites her Master into her home. They come together. Over Him. She falls at His feet and in this thick, dense compression of life and death, death and life – of Lazarus revived, of Jesus on the cusp of crucifixion, on the brink of rising from death – she recognizes she’s part of something rare. We’re getting the smallest hint of what that feeling is like right here and now among us. And because she knows that feeling is rare and fleeting, Mary blocks out all distractions in order to learn important truths. She pulls that moment to her heart, bows her head at the Savior’s feet, focuses in full concentration, and takes it all in in simple, intimate, symbolic ways.

Do you recognize this is where you are right now? Do you recognize that you are being soaked in something divine; that you have been invited quite personally by Parker to come together over him, to be here and to feel heaven so close? Or do you resist that Spirit and lose the chance to feel the beauty and the light and healing warmth that is only to be found through the Spirit of a living God?

Parker knew and recognized that Spirit, and he wants us to come together right now over him. But he doesn’t want it to be only about him, only about this moment. When we leave this place, this spot in time, how will we retain the gift of having been here? I have a suggestion of which I know Parker approves. It’s simple.

Par Cœur

I’ve known Parker longer – in mortal terms, at least – than anyone here. He grew within my body and for nine months as a  loud,percussive presence. I remember being in a graduate seminar where I had a book perched on my eight-month pregnant belly. We were studying Eugene Onegin I believe, I don’t know, and in the course of that lecture the book popped off my stomach – was catapulted, let’s say – and scooted across the table. My son always had and still has a forceful beat.

With that beat in mind, consider that in French, Parker’s name is pronounced, “par cœur,” which means “by heart.” The essence of his spirit and the symbol of his name is an invitation for all of us to feel the pulse, to feel our heart, and in the stillest of moments to recognize the intensity and love that was his heart. As we feel our own heart beating, we can be reminded of this boy, who was maybe somewhat impulsive, but whose impulsiveness drove him to do some of the most beautiful things. One of those things – a fatal flaw or a godly gift – was to plunge not once but twice, headlong into troubled waters to try to save a boy he’d known a mere week.

My friends, we will leave this place. We will all go away from this incubation place, this sacred spot with its golden hum and heightened meaning, this holding place where we are sitting now. It is up to us to listen to our hearts and to know that we weren’t changed for just a moment, but that we are changed forever because of the great love of the boy who invited you personally to be here today.

Parker, you know my heart. It is hardly beating, my son; it has been pulverized. But I believe – I know, I know – that every construction requires first a deconstruction, that this falling apart over you invites me to come together over Him. I have great faith in the living Savior of this world, I give my shattered heart to Him. I ask that He take its brokenness – all our brokenness – and work His miracle of healing comfort.

0012© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2015.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

20 thoughts on “Come Together Right Now Over Me: Funeral Remarks for My Son

  1. Thanks for sharing wow how you said those words when grief was so raw. I am sure it gives you some small comfort to read them still. I hear the inspiration you received to give comfort for those who heard it. His name in French by heart Did you know before when you named him. How did you choose his name. ?

    • Catherine- It was Parker’s little French buddies with whom he played basketball in Versailles who first dubbed him Par Cœur, and it stuck. I guess it’s fortunate we didn’t chose any of the others names from our list of favorites – Elliott, Oliver, Johnson (Jack) – because what translation would there have been into the French, right?

  2. This came up in my Facebook feed and I really appreciated your sharing it with all of us. It’s so. . . good. I can’t really describe it very well. I felt the depth of your love, your anguish, and how tenuously you held onto your faith during that time. I know it’s been a while now since it happened, but the emotions are still there in your eulogy.

    • Hello, and it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m so grateful you stopped in. Yes, the emotions are still there. When I allow myself, I am back in that deep ocean of grief-feelings in under 20 seconds. But I don’t stay there long. I resurface and pull myself onto the nearby landmass of gratitude. February was Parker’s birth month, so I concentrated on posts on him, and still have a stack of drafts (along with the 37 other drafts and ideas) that I need to finish formally. I’ve had so much going on professionally and privately, I’ve just not had time. But that’s changing. I’ll get those things in print soon.

  3. Så vakre ord, Melissa! Jeg spilte i Parkers dåp. Jeg husker Parker i hvite dåpsklær veldig godt. Jeg husker da Parker fikk Den hellige ånds gave og fikk høre i velsignelsen at slektningene i åndeverdenen gledet seg over Parkers dåp. Det var stort å være tilstede. Skoleklassen var der, og jeg syntes Parker var en fantastisk misjonær!
    Klem fra Anneli

    • Anneli- Dette er utrolig vakkert å lese fra deg og å huske på i så mange små detaljer. Stemmer, at du var øyevitne, du, og spilte klaver for dåpsmøte, og jeg er takknemmelig for at du husket at norske slektningene gledet seg over hans beslutning om å ta dette skrittet. Han er sammen med dem nå, noe som vi aldri kunne ha forestilt oss for 10 år siden…Ikke sannt?

  4. Exquisite writing, raw and from the depths of your heart. Thank you for sharing. I felt as if I were able to join in that sacred spot in time, even thought it was 8 years ago. No one has ever grown a heart like yours without loss and sacred stretching. xoxoxo

  5. I have vivid and clear memories of Parker’s baptism day. It was bigger than the syttene av mai. It was beautiful, and this is profound. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  6. Dear Melissa,
    I am grateful for your blog, your books, your heart, particularly your willingness to share, it encourages me to do the same.
    I feel a real sacredness when reading your words. I am grateful for that connection to you and to Him that you offer me with your blog. Thank you.

    • Emily, thank you for this. It’s sometimes frightening to share such material so publicly. But then I think of all I have been blessed to experience, and know it’s not for me to keep alone. If it inspires and adds value to your life, then it’s a blessing that I can write at all.

  7. Thanks for your beautiful posts Melissa. Have a Happy Easter all of you, and know that you are loved. Sent from Joyce Callister’s iPad

    >

  8. How you managed to put together such eloquent and inspiring words during that time of grieving, I don’t know. I knew the tissues would come out; but I had to read every word. Your candor, strength and generosity never cease to amaze.

  9. As a mother that has also lost a precious son, I thank you for your inspiring words. 15 years have passed since my Gary died. I’m always searching for help in understanding the ‘why’. Wasn’t I a good mother? I asked and sometimes begged Heavenly Father to keep him safe. On and on I go, driving myself a little crazy sometimes. I’ve saved your blog site and will read your writings from this moment on.

    • Sue,

      Oh, I can so understand those feelings you describe. The “Why” and the Guilt can suffocate a surviving parent. I’ve written a lot on this. My second book, “On Loss and Living Onward” deal exclusively with the kind of experience you’ve had and are still, after 15 years, trying to absorb. If you go into my blog and do a topical search for “grief” and “loss’ and “death”, there are several entries that you might want to read. I wish you peace, Sue, and all kinds of love and comfort.

  10. I sat in the chapel waiting for the funeral to start when I quickly scrolled through facebook and saw your first story. I drew strength from your brokenness and found healing in your grief. After the funeral proceedings of an older gentleman in our ward I read your talk on Parker’s funeral and for the first time in a long time death made sense and the life we live before that. Thank you for “voicing” the pain and disillusionment we often feel when faced with the reality of death.

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