Job Well Done
Job Well Done
“Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died.”
Acts 9: 36.
As we said our goodbyes to Sylvia in ICU, Peggy, her priest, reminded us of all those bedsides that Sylvia had sat by and said goodbyes and prayers for the dying, often when family members could not be present. Actually I was a little irritated at Sylvia, because I was planning on her being with me when I died, for I knew she would know better than anyone else what to do and say. That Friday afternoon as we participated in her last rites, I kept expecting her to wake up and sit up in bed in ICU and remind us of something we had forgotten to do or tell one of the hospital personnel to leave us alone, that we were busy.
Sylvia was an icon, a role model of someone who took her spirituality with her wherever she went, but especially to her work. Sylvia was a nurse par excellence. I loved going to the hospital with her, for she would go into a room to make a pastoral care visit and then out to the nursing station and tell them, this was needed, this wasn’t right. She was pastor, eucharistic visitor, nurse, and social worker all rolled up into a compact bundle of energy. There was no separation of her roles. They were all intertwined. She was a delicious combination of Mary and Martha.
We loved her honesty and forthrightness. Her last words to me as I walked out of her room when she was still alert were, “I like your new hair color.” We knew what to expect when we were with her. No hidden agendas. Her life had been too much of a struggle for hidden agendas. Hidden agendas are too time consuming. Sylvia deeply loved her family Doug, Robert, Ellen, Susan and her two grandchildren Darcy and Jack. They were the great joy of her life. Her husband had died when her sons were very young. She had been a single parent for most of her life.
As Robert was saying goodbye to his mother, he told me he said to her, “Job well done, good and faithful servant.” Our priest tells us that, perhaps our friends tell us that, but when your children say that to you, I think even God is moved to tears.
Sylvia’s caring for others and her pastoral care were phenomenal. I doubt it there was anyone at her memorial service who had not received care and love from her. I began to list the kindnesses she had done for my family, and I had to stop I was so overwhelmed. For some time to come, we will all be telling more Sylvia stories, seeing through the prism of her life and faith both in glad and sorrowful memories, refractions of the grace and love of God.
On a cool May afternoon we celebrated her life with her favorite meal, the Eucharist. The service continued to the columbarium where we sacramentally carried her back to God. In our liturgy we were in effect shouting a prayerful petition to God, “God, get ready! Here comes Sylvia! A sinner of your own redeeming, a lamb of your own flock. You have given her to us and now with gratitude for her life, we are returning her to you. Thank you, God, for the privilege of experiencing your love through her. Alleluia. Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Prayers for the Departed
Eternal God, you love us with a greater love than we can neither know nor understand: We give you most high praise and hearty thanks for the good example of your servant Sylvia who now is in the larger life of your heavenly Presence; who here on this earth was a tower of strength for all of us, who stood by us and helped us; who cheered us by her sympathy and encouraged us by her example; who looked not disdainfully on the outward appearance, but lovingly into the hearts of men and women; who rejoiced to serve all people; whose loyalty was steadfast, and her friendship unselfish and secure; whose joy it was to know more about you and be of service. Grant that she may continue to find abiding peace and wisdom in your heavenly kingdom, and that we may carry forward her unfinished work for you on this earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Burial Services, J. B. Bernardin, Morehouse Publishing, 1980, p. 117.
About Dr. Seibert:
Story from Healing Presence. Dr. Seibert is a pediatric radiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences who has been an ordained deacon in the Diocese of Arkansas for nine years. She is a facilitator for the Community of Hope, Walking the Mourner’s Path and Trinity’s health ministry. She is also on the board of the National Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church. You can find about more Dr. Seibert and her books at www.temenospublishing.com.