Today I attended the funeral, or Panachyda in Ukrainian, of a friend who was a devoted and active member of our parish for many, many years.  She was a strong woman, of integrity, principle, compassion and great faith.  There is so much I have learned from her presence in my life the last few years, and so many lessons I feel that presence will reveal with the benefit of time and experience.  Sometimes life brings you people who impact you on a fundamental level.  I think Mary Jane was one such friend.

During the funeral today, which was celebrated in English according to the Roman Catholic rite, I contemplated the great beauty and reverence of the Eastern Rite funeral service:  she is not lost to us, she has just, “fallen asleep,” found her peace; though her loss is mourned, her life is celebrated, and we are reminded of our gratitude for it.  These kinds of sentiments are couched within the Divine Liturgy (the service celebrated on Sundays), which is followed by the Panachyda.

The Liturgy is celebratory; it is the Panachyda that takes a decidedly sombre tone, with Liturgical hymns adopting a haunting minor key.  Sometimes the delivery is conventional, where Father recites a prayer and the choir and faithful respond with a hymn; at other times, prayers are shared between the Father and the faithful, in a line-by-line, call-and-response fashion.  It’s as if it’s designed to invoke the deepest of emotions, to release one’s love, grief, fear, pain and joy, all in one swirling, glorious invocation.

The service closes with the hymn Vichnaya Pam’yat, or Eternal Memory.  I can say with certainty that I’ve never been able to sing the entire piece without choking on my own grief – even when simply humming the melody to myself, with no particular person or intention in mind.  More and more I believe that it’s just not possible to make it all the way through without such a visceral response.  Check the clip below and be the judge yourself.

Please note that the quality’s not fantastic and you may have to work to hear the impact of the parts.  It’s worth it.

RIP, MJ.  Vichnaya Pam’yat.