Diary of a Brain Tumor Patient's Wife

Apr. 19, 1999

Renette Davis

My Mom suggested that I write down some memories of the services that we had for Paul to put in a memory book that we're making. I thought I would also share them with you. There was a committal service at the cemetery on Saturday morning and a memorial service at the church on Saturday afternoon.

Paul's brain was donated to The University of Chicago for research, and then his body was cremated. We decided to carry the ashes to the cemetery on a bicycle because bicycling was something that Paul enjoyed so much. We found the old child's seat that Philip rode in on the back of Paul's bike when he was little. We put that on the back of Philip's bike, and strapped the urn which contained the ashes into it.

There were about 12 people - son, brothers, sister-in-law, nephews, close friends, even me - who rode approximately 6 miles to the cemetery. I rode on the back of the tandem with Paul's good friend Al on the front. The rest of the family went in cars, either directly from our house or from the motel where people were staying. We didn't have any police or funeral home escort.

When we got to the cemetery, we took the urn off the bicycle and had a procession to the grave site. Paul's brother and father, who are both ministers and who led the service, went first. Paul's Mom and my Mom followed them. Philip and Karen were next, carrying the urn, and then me. Everyone else followed. It was just family and a few close friends, but even so it was a pretty good-sized group.

Philip and Karen presented the urn to Raydean (Paul's brother) and he covered it with a baby blanket (we think one that Philip used when he was a baby). Raydean and Paul's dad said some scripture sentences and then Raydean explained what we would be doing. Paul's dad and others had collected soil from various places where Paul had lived, and we placed that soil into the grave.

Raydean and Paul's dad then led us in communion. For the bread, we used the leftover breadsticks from supper the night before. They had been wrapped and carried to the cemetery on a bicycle. For the wine we used some grape juice that was left over in the refrigerator, poured into a bicycle water bottle and also carried to the cemetery on a bicycle. For the wine goblet, we used a goblet that had been used when Paul's Mom and Dad got married.

After communion, we all recited the 23rd Psalm and Paul's brothers put what was left of the bread and juice into the grave. We then recited John 14 (Let not your hearts be troubled ...). Then Paul's dad said the words of committal. I think that must have been awfully hard for him to do. After that we recited the Lord's Prayer, and then Philip and Karen lowered the urn into the grave.

We had asked the cemetery to leave the dirt from the grave and a shovel so those of us who wanted to could throw dirt in the grave. I did the first scoop, and then others followed. We cried and hugged each other, and the service was over. It was a very meaningful service for me, and I think it was for others also. It allowed us to express our grief with just the family and close friends around.

We rode our bikes back. Several people who had ridden out on bicycles went back in cars, and several people who went out in cars went back on bicycles. I rode back on the tandem, and was pretty tired when we got home. We had some soup that someone had brought us for lunch, and then I had a shower and a quick nap, and then it was time to go to the church for the memorial service.

The memorial service was a celebration of Paul's life, with lots of music and people telling their memories of Paul. Some of the women of the church had made a banner that said "Paul, I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass thru the waters, I will be with you." (Isaiah 43:1-2) It was beautiful.

There were nine solos and duets by family and church members. Several of the people were extremely nervous, but they wanted to do it for Paul. They all did a great job.

The choir also sang. It was about double in size what it usually is because a number of Paul's friends from the Park Forest Singers joined them for the service. They sang "Creation will be at Peace" for an anthem, "God be in my Head" for a prayer response, and "The Lord Bless you and Keep You" by Rutter at the end. They were all beautiful.

The bell choir also played "Candle on the Water", and the congregation sang 3 hymns. One was "Praise to the Lord", which had been sung at our wedding. Soon after Paul was diagnosed, we read Cardinal Bernadine's book. He had planned his own funeral, and I asked Paul if he wanted to do that. He said "not particularly" but he said it would be nice if we would sing "Praise to the Lord." We also sang "Hymn of Promise" and "What God Hath Promised."

The music was interspersed with people telling their memories of Paul. There were some very funny stories as well as serious ones. Several people read poems that they had written. Karen's cousin Tim read something that Karen had written and a poem that someone had sent to her.

Our former minister, who was also a good friend of Paul's, led us in prayer, and then in the Lord's prayer. When it was time for the Lord's prayer, he said that Paul was decisively Christian, but he lived in a world with people of all faiths, and it would be presumptuous to assume that all gathered together that day approached God through Christianity. He invited those who were not Christian to offer their own prayers while we recited the Lord's prayer. I really liked that.

The service was long - over an hour and a half. I was afraid people would get tired sitting so long, but a number of people told me afterwards it was the fastest hour and a half they ever experienced. I think people really enjoyed the service. I actually enjoyed it myself. There were some tears, of course, but by and large I felt peace and joy. I found it very meaningful, and I think Philip and Karen and the rest of the family did too.

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Created: June 19, 1999
Last updated: July 21, 2010