There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.
Thank you for being here this evening as we honor those who have died and offer their bodies a final resting place of peace and love. All Saints Church has a history of offering comfort and healing as our own heritage began as a hospital here in McAlester. There has been much brokenness and loss woven within our ancestry. Additionally, there has been much mercy and hope offered as well. As we gather here this evening, we are not only reminded of our history, we are also reminded of our mission: to offer healing and hope to all. In this space, may we find the respite and comfort that we so earnestly seek.
For at least two hours that Christmas morning the Boy loved the Velveteen Rabbit, and then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great rustling of tissue paper and unwrapping of parcels, and in the excitement of looking at all the new presents the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten.
Those who rest on this table are those in our community who, like the Velveteen Rabbit at Christmas, have also been forgotten. These precious creatures of our Holy Father have not had comfortable words spoken over them. Oftentimes, family and friends may live far away or may not have the means or plans to take a loved one who has died. For some, the grief may be so intense that to continue with the motions of life are the only methods of survival. For these we dare not presume or judge. In this moment now, we continue in the way of our heritage and be a space of light and rest. And, in honor, we speak their names giving final breath to a life who once lived and moved, beloved by God Almighty.
Jerry Don Morrow 9/5/1937 12/3/2007
Deborah Martinez 6/22/1953 2/24/2002
Allen Burgess Bush 6/26/1949 8/4/2007
Eugene Ulrich Wiesendanger 3/4/1921 1/22/2001
Jo Hyatt LaHoma 6/15/1925. 6/9/2002
Guy R Herrington 7/4/1957 7/18/2019
Mary Lynn Weaver 2/1/1960 5/6/2016
Valvie Trueblood 5/11/1911 1/16/2005
Norman Dana unknown birth and death
Roy Shaw, Jr. 9/8/1958 3/2/2021
Ronald Joe Snow 2/18/1960 7/6/2021
Gary Joe Johnson 11/6/1962 6/25/2020
David Keith Andrews 2/17/1959 3/8/2017
Joshua Paul Hopkins 7/1/1978 8/30/2015
Russell Gillogly 9/21/1916 12/6/2006
Baby Dodson 7/19/2001
6 Unknown Cremains with no birth or death dates
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
These last twenty months, this age of the pandemic of COVID has changed our world. We have been forced to retreat, to isolate, to insulate ourselves. It has changed how we live and breathe and move amongst our own families and friends. Many of us have suffered loss of precious people either to COVID itself or to unrelated causes, but because of COVID, we have not been offered resolution. The wounds remain open, exposed. Those exposed nerves transform into grief, anger, fear, doubt, despair. These exposed nerves will pinch and trigger in the most unrelated and inconvenient moments: a Walmart pickup order is deleted, one more addition to an already overloaded to-do list, a small slight by a friend hits this nerve and we reel in doubt and judgment.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
My friends, we are becoming real. We are being remade into something we have not been, into something we have not yet seen. Like these we honor this evening who have been remade already, we are not the same creatures we were in February 2020. There are new truths, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the heart to bear witness.
Anne Lamott says, “But you can’t get to any of these truths by sitting in a field smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. Your anger and damage and grief are the way to the truth. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and to stay in the present moment.”
In this space, this moment in time, I invite us all to look within, to uncover what we hide. What we hide out of expectation or Southern gentility or stubbornness or fear. In this space we come broken and pained. We come, like these who will find their home here, in need to be seen, to be recognized, to be acknowledged. We bring our pieces and offer them to our Creator and to one another. And, when we offer our brokenness, that gesture is grace that we give another. We say, “See me. I am not whole. And I need.”
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.
We look to Jesus our Redeemer. A man, broken, pained, suffering. We look to Him as we walk our own roads. A man broken for us. And in our Eucharist this evening, as we celebrate again the death and resurrection of Jesus, the present is pierced with the timeless. We are brought, even with our grief and anger and doubt and fear, into love, into the very presence of God and into the presence of those we have loved, the communion of saints and the whole company of heaven.
Autumn passed and Winter, and in the Spring, when the days grew warm and sunny, the Boy went out to play in the wood behind the house. And while he was playing, two rabbits crept out from the bracken and peeped at him. One of them was brown all over, but the other had strange markings under his fur, as though long ago he had been spotted, and the spots still showed through. And about his little soft nose and his round black eyes there was something familiar, so that the Boy thought to himself:
“Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!”
But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first loved him to be Real.
Our text from the Book of Wisdom says, “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and they going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.”
Let us pray: O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers; Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.