Updated: Feb 1
My wife was an Episcopal priest. She was ordained a deacon in May 2013. She was ordained as a priest in December of that year.
She was the rector of two parishes, in two different dioceses.
She came down with terminal cancer, was forced into disability retirement and died in late 2019.
My wife served in multiple Episcopal churches, both as a layperson volunteer, as a seminarian student, and as a paid priest. She knew many Episcopalian women through her involvement with the Daughters of the King and the ECW (Episcopal Church Women). She knew Episcopal priests, with close relationships with female priests.
My wife was filled with the Holy Spirit and she left a wake of love everywhere she went.
My wife’s body was cremated after her death, per her wish. Because she died at a young age due to cancer, I separated her ashes for two separate funerals.
Second, the bulk of my wife’s remains were kept for another funeral, one at sea (a bay of brackish water). Due to religious reasons, I had grown my hair and beard long. Due to religious reasons, I shaved my head and face after my wife died. I saved that hair and joined it with my wife’s remaining ashes and placed those remains in an urn designed for burial at sea.
While my wife had implied that she liked the idea of her ashes being scattered in the gulf, near where she loved to sun on the beach as a girl, woman, and priest, she never said where she wanted to be finally placed. In checking how to hire a boat to take myself and my wife’s ashes out for a funeral at sea, it dawned on me that I should check with the man who runs a sailboat rental business in Pensacola, Florida. My wife and I went on a sunset cruise on his sailboat for our thirteenth wedding anniversary, just a month before my wife died.
The captain also takes pictures for you, using your cell phone camera.
The man told me that he had done funerals before and his boat offered a private affair for six people. After seeing how my wife would love another sailboat ride and love her remains, along with my hair, released into the Pensacola Bay, where the water current could float us both out into the gulf. I agreed to rent the sailboat.
I decided that I would only offer (given the small number of seats available) only those who knew my wife as a priest to join in this way to offer final respects of love. This, I presumed, would be other priests like my wife, those who were strongly affected by my wife’s being a priest filled with the Holy Spirit, or those who went to seminary with my wife, who might likewise have been filled with the Holy Spirit after ordination. I made a plea on Facebook.
Only one person had the Holy Spirit speak through them. By that person saying, “I can’t,” no one will be joining with me.
I was told today that my plan for a funeral on the water “was romantic.” I immediately said, “No. It is not romantic. It is respectful.”
That response to me (which was also a rejection of wanting to pay my wife a departing respect of love at her funeral) says this trip seemed to be all about me, as if I want everyone to see how much I loved my wife, like it was some Valentine’s Day celebration. My wife and I were married as man and wife, thus we were romantically involved. We loved one another as human beings. My wife’s terminal cancer diagnosis ceased all “romantic” togetherness from our relationship. We were still married as husband and wife, but our relationship elevated to one of prayer for my wife’s strength, along with my strength, to withstand this terrible tragedy that was guaranteed to come. We held one another in a deeper bond of love than romance implies.
The last thing I want anyone to think is my wife’s funeral is romantic. It is a one time only event, to say “Goodbye” to a loved one. Although I have a pinch of her ashes that I will keep with me for the rest of my life, there will be absolutely no other chances for anyone else to see anything that physically reflects the body of my wife, before she is buried forevermore. That is such a sad thought to contemplate that it again brings tears to my eyes.
On top of this view that I only want to make a love production out of a funeral, I have scheduled my wife’s ashes be submerged on her birthday. All the priestly people my wife knew closely will be tied up with Holy Saturday Easter egg hunts and unable to break away from a yearly event to join my wife for one last fling.
My wife and I met because of God. My wife and I married because of God.
My wife and I were both married to God, as His Holy Spirit led us to do His Will, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. My wife loved being a priest because she was serving God as such. I love serving God as a messenger that conveys the interpretations of the Holy Spirit, by which others can be aided.
The invitation I placed on Facebook was not for normal human beings that are too selfish to realize how close they came to the Kingdom of God before they walked away to attend. That dust is now kicked off my sandals. I did not invite fearful man-haters, fun-seeking freeloaders, or people who see Easter as a pagan ritual to join my wife and I on this bon voyage. The funeral for cancerous ashes is past – that ship has already sailed. I will be the only one paying my wife the last respects she deserves (along with the captain of the sailboat)
R. T. Tippett