September 26, 2010

Laid To Rest

Yesterday we had a small gathering at Inspiration Point, above Huntington Lake, to finally lay to rest the ashes of Susan Freeman Harper. This point about a half mile above Camp Keola is holy ground upon which many a prayer has been prayed, many a hymn or song of praise sung, and many a sunset watched with awe. Shortly after Susan was first diagnosed with cancer she had informed me that she wanted her ashes put at Inspiration Point. Her earthly place of final rest has a view of Huntington Lake, which you can see behind me in the picture above, as well as great views of the San Joaquin Valley (when the air is clear) and great sunset views almost every evening.

The picture immediately above is of the "urn" in which Sue's ashes were put by folks at Farewell Funeral Service of Fresno. I had previously likened it to a plastic box about the size of a half gallon of ice cream. I had a moment of panic on Friday morning while packing up for this trip. I couldn't find this brown box of ashes. Valerie popped her head into the garage, where I was looking for this box, and asked what I was doing? "I'm looking for your mother," I told her. "You lost mom?" She asked incredulously. Then, knowing I had taken a fair number of boxes of stuff to Good Will, she smirked and said "Don't tell me you gave mom to Good Will!"

That thought had occurred to me before she accused me of it. Though I didn't think I had taken Sue's ashes to Good Will, I was pretty sure that if I couldn't find them, that would be pinned on me for the rest of my life. I spent another 45 minutes searching the garage in vain. When I finally went back in the house I occasioned to glance into Valerie's bedroom. There, on the floor of her bedroom, were two cardboard boxes. The only two boxes in which I had not yet looked. The first contained only papers from Sue's desk. The second, thankfully, had the little brown box of ashes.
While preparing for the event, Mark Wiens and I had another moment of amusement. We carefully cut the tape seal from the top of the box and, holding the box so as not to spill it, pried the lid up. We didn't know what we'd see, but we did not expect to see styrafoam peanuts. The box was half full of styrafoam peanuts, which we found humorous because Sue hated those things.

The reverand Mark Wiens officiated. He had conferred with Pastor James and they had come up with a good Psalms passage -- the one about looking up unto the hills in times of trouble and turmoil, and from whence commeth my help? From the mountains? No, my help comes from the Lord. Then Mark dutifully read from the Book of Common Prayer as I poured Sue's ashes into the hole: "In the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life through our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our sister, Susan Freeman Harper, and we commit her ashes to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust. The Lord bless her and keep her. The Lord make his face to shine upon her, and be gracious unto her, and give her peace. Amen."
Different ones from the assembled group then threw snippets of berries or snippets of the local wildflowers into the hole and recited a memory or thought about Sue. Valerie poignantly recalled that Sue had been a good teacher, and that we had all learned something from her, and that it wasn't until recently that Valerie had fully realized the final lesson Sue had sought to teach us all: That when you are secure in your faith in the saving power of God, and when your death is only a passing to eternal life, then death is not something to be feared.

And then, to the fading colors of a fading sun, we sang Amazing Grace. It was, indeed, a sweet-sounding moment.


  1. In a word: AWESOME!

    Peace be with you all.

  2. I miss her
    I wish I'd been there to share this time with you
    I thank you and Valerie for sharing Sue's last lesson
    I hope I may one day get to the Point of Inspiration
    I'm glad and thankful Sue was my cousin and part of my life
    I thank you for sharing
    I'm glad Sue remains where she wanted to be - Inspiration Pt,
    in our hearts and minds, in the arms of God
    I thought I'd shed my last tears, but I was wrong
    I thank Susan
    I thank God

    "Well done, good and faithful servant"


  3. I love the Good Will store close to us, so you made me smile when I read about possibly "giving Sue away" to Good Will! I can't wait to call Mark- Pastor Mark. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing. Janice