Aletheia (8) and Ambrose (6), two of the Lovetts’ four children, were then allowed to come in the room. Aletheia was too shy in the crowded room to focus on her mother’s body, and scrambled out, but Ambrose lay down beside his mom, wrapped his arm around her, and lay with her, just as he had hundreds of times before. He did not weep, but quietly rested with her shrouded body, loving her with such tenderness that all of us who witnessed it had a hard time not weeping openly.
I had entered the experience with trepidation and a determination to be strong enough, for Ryan and Lizz’s sake. I had never heard of anyone preparing the body of their loved one for burial, but Ryan had done his research. Still, even he was not ready or fully prepared for all we experienced. All through the hours we were together in that room Ryan, during his hardest moments, would look straight up, and I knew he was asking our Lord for strength. He would visibly be shaken with the power of his own grief, look up, and then be composed and strong again. It was subtle, but clear. He knew he was not strong enough alone, and kept asking for guidance and help. And because of that incredible faith in God, he was able to show his wife the greatest act of love I have ever witnessed, or am likely to ever witness. Lizz departed her body, in faith and confidence that her Maker loved her and was preparing a better way for her. Ryan not only honored her body and her life by giving her such sacrificial love to the end, but he joined in her trust. By lovingly preparing her body for Christian burial he participated in preparing his wife for the marriage ceremony of her union with Christ in Heaven. He gave her up, with dignity and tenderness and faith, to the end.
There was beauty. I was surprised by my own moments of joy during the process of preparing her body. To witness such sacrificial love in Ryan, in her family, in all of us, was to participate in something supernatural. God’s love was so present in the room that there were moments when I found myself smiling, bursting with hope, in between the moments of weeping and searching deeply for strength in prayer. Ryan and Lizz gave us each a tremendous gift when they chose us to participate in such a sacred ritual, and I believe Lizz understood that when she chose us to do this for her. She was teaching us, drawing us nearer to the Lord, and showing us the way not just up to death, but through it and past it.
I will be forever grateful for the gift she and Ryan have given me, and shall pray that this ministry can become more widespread, so that many more graces can flow.
[Additional notes per the author: Arrangements were made in advance. Instead of making the call to hospice the minute she died, they waited until they prayed with her body and cleaned her. Since Lizz did not want to be embalmed, they wrapped her in the shroud. Then they called the funeral home. In keeping with Lizz’s wish there was no open-casket viewing. She was waked at a church facilitated by the funeral home, followed by the funeral the day after. – Ed.]