>The Spice Girls and Uncle Oscar

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Tonight my husband asked me, “Do you know what Sunday tomorrow is?” He was referring to the Sundays in the calendar of the Orthodox Church.

I thought about it and said, “Hmmmm, well, it’s the second Sunday after Pascha, but I can’t remember who we commemorate.”

He smiled and said, “the Spice Girls.”

I got it. It’s the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women. (You have to know him to appreciate his sense of humor!) But he’s leading the services and giving the homily (sermon) at an Orthodox Skete (small monastery) tomorrow morning, so I doubt he’ll use The Spice Girls for humor… the nuns probably don’t know who they are! But they know who the Myrrhbearing Women are.

You can read a wonderful homily by Saint Gregory Palamas about the Myrrhbearing Women here.

Here’s my favorite part:

The Myrrhbearers are all those women who followed with the mother of the Lord, stayed with her during those hours of the salvific passion, and with pathos anointed him with myrrh. After Joseph and Nicodemos asked for and received the body of the Lord from Pilate, they took it down from the cross, wrapped it in a cloth with strong spices, placed it in a carved out tomb, and closed the door of the tomb with a large stone…. they went and bought spices and myrrh; for they did not yet clearly know that he is truly the perfume of life for those who approach him in faith, just as he is also the odor of death for those who remain unbelievers to the end. They did not yet clearly know that the odor of his clothes, the odor of his own body, is greater than all perfumes, that his name is like myrrh that is poured out to cover the world with his divine fragrance.

Wow. Jesus is “the perfume of life for those who approach him in faith.” And “the odor of his own body is greater than all perfumes, and his name is like myrrh that is poured out to cover the world with his divine fragrance.” Imagine what the world would smell like without Him.

We miss this earthiness in much of today’s funeral practices, with the body usually being prepared by a stranger, a professional mortician, rather than by “myrrhbearing women.” Ten years ago this summer, when my father died (July 9) at home, I was blessed to at least bathe him before they took him to the funeral home. And then when my Goddaughter, Mary Allison was killed in a car wreck (in September) the time I spent helping her mother comb her hair and apply her makeup before the funeral was a time of tender “anointing” in a sense.

I started thinking about these deaths yesterday, when my cousin Kathleen called to tell me that her father, my Great Uncle Oscar, had died. He was my grandfather’s brother. My father’s father’s brother. Uncle Oscar was 96 years old, and his brother, Papa Willis, died at half that age, at 48. I barely remember him. He died of a heart attack, probably with undiagnosed heart disease back then. Uncle Oscar was a sweet, dear man, who never smoked, drank or ate meat his entire life. Years after retiring from his “day job,” he worked outside in his garden and his mind was sharp. He lived in Star, Mississippi, hometown of Faith Hill .

I’ve lost a brother, an aunt, an uncle and a father to lung cancer caused by smoking. They were all between 58 and 68 years old. Uncle Oscar was 96. I think I said that already.

Forgive the digression from my post about the Myrrhbearing Women… but this smoking thing has been on my mind this week. Today I read an article in The New Yorker by David Sedaris called “Letting Go” … it’s his story of quitting smoking. It’s not at all preachy… mainly his reflections on smoking as a social phenomenon over the years, and how he was finally “finished with it.”

Made me also think about The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell… the book about social trends and how they become epidemics, like teen smoking. (fascinating book, by the way… you can read a good interview with Gladwell here.

So now I’m rambling… and I’ll close with a nod to my husband, the biggest anti-smoker I know. One of the hats he wears is Dr. William Cushman, doctor of Preventive Medicine… so he’s all about healthy lifestyles. Our neighbors are used to seeing him jogging through the neighborhood with his white beard and baseball hat. He’s been a runner since high school.

So, yesterday he received this award at the VA Hospital here in Memphis where he works. It’s the 2008 Memphis Metropolitan Area Federal Employee of the Year award—specifically the Outstanding Scientific/Professional Employee Award. He got this beautiful plaque, so I made him pose for a picture when he came home from work with it.
Maybe he’ll live to be 96, like Uncle Oscar.

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