I just finished a funeral for Delma Mehlhaff. In a week in a half I will do a memorial for Clara Clay. Both ladies were widows in their 90s. I officiated both of their husband's funerals, and now I have done theirs as well.
One of the challenging things about losing elderly saints in our congregation is that after they are gone, we are going to lose touch with much of the family as well. I first came to this realization after we did the service for Marv and June Wilkinson, a couple who died within a week of each other. Such sweet folks! They had one daughter, and she lives in Samford, MI. Soon after they passed away, the family sold the land and finished the estate business. I said to the daughter, "You are not only saying goodbye to your parents, you are also saying goodbye to this place aren't you? That is a lot of loss all at once."
She confirmed that she really was saying goodbye to Hot Springs for the most part. She might drive through on the way to somewhere else, but there was really no reason to come back. Her ties to the church and the community were gone. This confirmation saddened me. As a pastor, especially with elderly folks, you not only build a relationship with the person who is a part of your church, you build a relationship with the whole family. Then they lose one of their parents, and then the other, and then their is really no reason for them to return.
In the process of caring for spiritual needs of ailing church members, I often feel a connection or a bond with the family members of those I serve. I grow to like them. I expect to see them occasionally drop in. But there comes a point when you know that their lives are somewhere else, and it is probable that you will not see them for a long time, if ever. Especially if all ties to the community are gone.
Anyway, moments like these always make me a little sad.