The memorial service for Abigail Milagros Karow was Monday, April 26, 2010 at 10am at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City (UUFRC). Thank you so much for the great outpouring of support.
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Here are the words from the service written by our pastor, Reverend Julia Older:
It is such a secret place, the land of tears. Saint Exupery.
We meet this morning on holy ground, for that place is holy where we meet each other. Where lives touch, where love moves, where memory is stirred, and where hope grows: this is holy ground.
We gather here to share our feelings of loss and sorrow. And here we will share memories and celebrate the many gifts of Abigail’s life.
Let us begin by lighting a chalice. This lighting symbolizes moving from the mundane to the transcendent, from the ordinary into the sacred. We are, with our intention, blessing this ceremony with our love.
We gather to celebrate life and love.
We light this flame today in honor of Abby and her family, Dave, Tiffany, and Oliver.
Coming as we do from many faiths, each of us is called in our own way to hallow this time together. You are invited to turn to your own understanding of the sacred.
For some this will be love, especially love for Abigail, her big brother Oliver, and all of the Karow family.
Others will embrace their faith in the oneness of life that is so profoundly expressed in nature and the universe.
For others the ground of this oneness has a single name and that is God.
Finally some will be comforted by assurance of a life ever after.
May each of us, in our own way, hallow this time as we celebrate Abby’s life and comfort one another.
We are gathered this morning to honor Abigail. To find comfort and to seek peace.
We are gathered here to support one another, to grieve and to celebrate together. This is a loss beyond reckoning. She was a gift beyond measure.
Loved, wanted, treasured Abigail is gone from us, for no reason that will ever help us to understand. There is no purpose to such a loss that can offer us solace and consolation.
She was a beautiful healthy baby. A delight to her family. Adored by big brother Oliver.
She simply stopped breathing. Public safety officers, doctors and the most wonderful staff at Lucile Packard Hospital did all they could.
Family came from all over the country. Friends gathered around. There was nothing to do but wait and hope and finally to let her go.
Now we are left to make life without her.
Big brother Oliver was quite extraordinary. Each time he came into the room, he understood a little more and let go a little more. He was perceptive and caring and seemed to be wise well beyond his age.
And now this work is before us. Time plays cruel tricks. Some days will last for ever. Some days will disappear in grief. But along some distant day my prayer is that you, her family, and all of us will realize that we can think about Abigail and smile.
I know that this pain will change over time. I have faith that even now there can be moments of joy.
Tiffany and Dave, I know you can still feel the weight of her body in your arms. The loss is overwhelming. And it is true that the life you have led is forever altered. You are living a new life now. Creating a new way to live is your task . . . because of your loved ones, for each other, for Oliver and for Abby. You will always be able to touch the pain but over time you will find the path to a new way of being. You will forge a new life and it will be worth living.
Be gentle with yourselves. It will take time. And effort. And choice. There will be crossroads where you must choose. Choose life. An open heart does not become bitter. I have faith that you will find a way.
For all of us, such a loss among us reminds us that no matter where we live, who we are, what has happened to us or what we have chosen, we live a life that is common upon this earth and it is a fragile gift.
When children come to us, we expect them to have many years. We expect that they will grow, become adults. We hope that they will find work that brings them joy, create their own families, grow wise, and someday grow old. Yet it is not always so. Some are among us such a short time and the days we know them are particularly precious. The ways they change us are powerful beyond measure.
We are all wounded by the loss of Abby so we gather together and treasure her days as the gift they were.
In the time ahead as some of this pain changes, we may hesitate to talk about her. To speak her name and bring up stories about her. How much fun she was. How beautiful. How brother Oliver enjoyed his baby. He was an affectionate big brother.
I urge you to continue to tell her stories. I ask you not to stop yourself from talking about her with her family. If we provoke some tears as we talk, it’s OK. They will be there just below the surface for a long time to come. We will have made what is real visible. We will not have caused more pain.
As the years come and we imagine how she would be growing up, moving into the world, her family will not have forgotten and we will be helping to keep her spirit alive. To avoid her memory is to isolate the very ones we are trying to protect.
Meanwhile, we will each grieve in our own way. Some will weep with friends. Some will cry in private. Some will talk. Some will be silent. Sometimes we will be very, very angry. Other times, deeply sorrowful.
And sometimes we will be joyful and glad to have had the gift of her life. There is no right way. No right time and the seasons of our grief will change.
It is just so hard. What a burden it can be to be mortal. To love this life. And to have to let go.
It is love that will get us through. . .which is another name for God.
I know that there are some people here who are ready to say a few words to this gathered community. If you would like the microphone, please raise your hand. Stand and begin with your name.
We will never stop telling our stories about Abby. Her life was and is precious.
May beauty be before us
May beauty be behind us
May beauty be above us
May beauty be all around us.
We ask this now in the name of that which each of us knows to be holy.
As we sing each Sunday as our children leave our sight:
Go now in peace.
Go now in peace
May the spirit of love surround you everywhere. Everywhere, you may go.
Please join us in the social hall to participate in the Balloon ritual and later to share food together.