the story room

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

what I learned from the pet liturgy

Last spring, one of my Betta fish, Eugene died. Having recently talked about funerals in our pastoral care class, my roommates and I thought it would be a good idea to have a little service of our own. We found a liturgy online and adapted it for our needs. Then we brought my other fish's bowls into the living room, and we all circled around the bowl of our dead fish. And we read and prayed and sang. Then we had a short "graveside service" around our toilet, before we flushed the body of our little roommate away.

It was, hands down, the single dorkiest thing we did all year. And quite possibly the best.

We couldn't help but laugh throughout the ceremony. And it was a holy time.

We celebrated the life of a little creature that God knows, whose body had been filled with the breath of life...the breath of God. A creature different from us in so many ways...but having known life and having known death, like we'll know death.

What I remember most about the service, though, was a line from the liturgy that still echoes in my mind: "May we live more peacefully because of today."

May our reflection on death and life change us. May our coming together over the death of a little fish remind us of the sacredness of life. May our quarrels subside, remembering that we are dealing with people who not only bear the breath of God, but also God's image. "May we live more peacefully because of today."

This summer I found that working as a hospital chaplain isn't unlike sitting around on the living room floor with friends, remembering and praying and loving a life we knew little of, but approached with awe just the same. The call to make peace rings out loud and clear, even if it is hard work.