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Letter from Dean of Spiritual Life Regarding Wednesday Chapel

Dear Parents,

We wanted to let you know that in Chapel on Wednesday, we will have a brief memorial service for Orchestra and Band Director Charles Estes, who passed away on November 15. Because his funeral was last week, when so many of our students, faculty, and staff were away for the Thanksgiving holiday, the service this Wednesday, November 28, will give our school community the opportunity to celebrate his life, even as we continue to grieve our loss of him.

Knowing that some of our students have never been to a memorial service, we wanted to let you know the plans for the service and give you some information about how the Episcopal Church understands Christian burial. Because it will be a memorial service, there will be no casket or urn present. The service itself will be fairly brief and will include scripture readings and prayers, and then we will move to the Underwood Student Center, where several students will make presentations in celebration of his life, and we'll invite students who knew him to write down stories about their experiences with him. We'll collect these written reflections and give them to Charles' wife Cathryn, to be shared with their children when they're older, as a way for them to know who their dad was and what he meant to our students.

Below, please see a note about the Burial service in the Book of Common Prayer:

The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.

The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn. (p. 507)

At home this week, you may also want to take this opportunity to have conversation about some of these topics:

  • Your faith tradition's views – or your own views -- about what happens when we die
  • Burial services you have attended
  • Your plans and wishes for your own burial some day
  • Symptoms of grief, which can include anger, betrayal, denial, depression, fear, guilt, helplessness, numbness, sadness, and shock – but also thankfulness and acceptance
  • Ways to remember and celebrate the lives of people you've loved, who have died

Our loss of Charles has been felt acutely by a large number of our students. Particularly if your child was in his advisory group or in the Orchestra, Band, or one of his music classes, please be assured that your child's teachers will be sensitive and attentive to her or his grief, and don't hesitate to let us know what we can do to help.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Beth Holden
Dean of Spiritual Life