Pink Punch and Lemon Squares


They served pink punch at the funeral.

Pink punch with sherbet in it. And lemon squares and those little finger sandwiches stuffed with different fillings: egg salad, ham, salmon salad, tuna. There were vegetables cut up neatly, in bite-size pieces. And there was dip for the vegetables and more sweets – chewy blonde brownies, Rice Krispies squares, dark chocolate cookies.

It was a spread to make a church proud; the sacrificial hands of church ladies who had done this before were there, waiting to direct and refill plates.

And I sat idly back, an observer feeling the pain of the widow. A widow who was burying her life partner, the man who had wooed her as a young college student and grown old with her; a man of integrity and faithfulness, by all counts a man of God – now dead. She would go home to a bed and a house half full, echoes of a life lived well all around her.

To live means to lose. To live means to experience death. To live means loss.

In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts she writes “I will lose every single person I have ever loved.Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that?”*

All this loss wrapped up in pink punch and lemon squares

And if the end is just a service, pink punch, and lemon squares then it’s pathetic. The human heart cannot handle sustained loss on a diet of sweets. That every single relationship ultimately ends in loss is too much for the heart to handle without a Saviour.

I think about words from my faith tradition, words to an ancient church in Thessalonica, a church that had experienced death and loss: “Therefore we do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”. There’s a mystery to the words. The mystery of Christ conquering death — Christ, risen from the dead, trampling down death, bestowing life.

Bestowing life so that serving pink punch and lemon squares is not an act of irony, but rather an act of sweet hospitality and grace to those who have come to offer comfort, to grieve with hope.

And as I think about all of this, the life and the loss, the hope and the hospitality, I realize I want pink punch with sherbet in it and lemon squares at my funeral.

*page 85 of One Thousand Gifts

16 thoughts on “Pink Punch and Lemon Squares

  1. My Mom knew her time was coming to an end and made all the preparations ahead of time – what a gift to not have to make those decisions. She belonged to a large church that offered $1000 for member’s families to use for catering. She decided that since this would be a celebration of her meeting Jesus, and how He is referred to as the bride, she wanted a wedding feast. It was the most beautiful, amazing wedding/funeral meal I have ever enjoyed. Several courses and singers to entertain us even – I love that my Mom could think outside the box and make the day so special for all of us who have been left behind.


    1. I love this so much. Thank you for sharing. I agree – that your mom could think big about this and leave you with a sense of joy and celebration is amazing. What a testament to her character!


  2. Marilyn, I remember the sandwiches, pink punch and sweets growing up in R.I. being served at the funerals of our close knit clan…we called them “funeral sandwiches”. But more than that, I remember the wonderful hymns…Great is Your Faithfulness, When the Role is called up Yonder, How Great Though Art, Standing on the Promises, It is Well With My Soul…how they spoke to me as a young child and teenager as my extended family went home to be with the Lord. After the death of my husband at age 46, it took a long time for me to be able to sing those songs again without tears…tears because I would not see him again…I will see him with our Lord, but tears because of how much the words meant to me…how the Lord showed His great faithfulness by sending me to Rift Valley Academy, supplying my family needs, providing a safe and secure place for us to grieve the loss while surrounded by wonderful Believers who helped through those first several years of loss. A Believer’s funeral is one of the most bittersweet event and joyous celebrations. Bitter because the loved on is no longer with us, sweet because they are with Lord and we know we will see them again on the other side if we’re believers. Thank you.


    1. I choked up as I read this comment Nancy – I’m so glad you shared about your husband’s death. So young. What a journey you have traveled! Your comment was another moment of truth about blogging as I thought about all the stories and journeys that I don’t know about those who read Communicating Across Boundaries. It makes me want to be even more respectful and careful with my words. Thank you for sharing – oh and I those hymns as well! On the way back to Cambridge I asked my dad what hymns he wants at his funeral. Love that you call those sandwiches funeral sandwiches!


  3. I love this line: Bestowing life so that serving pink punch and lemon squares is not an act of irony, but rather an act of sweet hospitality and grace to those who have come to offer comfort, to grieve with hope.

    and I totally agree with Wilma Brown – I want to have those delicious things while I’m still around to enjoy them! And sure, at my funeral, too.


  4. I just want to add what Marilyn didn’t say. She spent her day off last Friday taking her Dad to the funeral of one of his dearest friends from college, seminary and from many visits in their home when we visited their church on our Home Assignments from Pakistan. We have grieved the loss of five people dear to us this summer and this was the only funeral one of us able to get to. One was his 64 year old niece in Oregon. As her widowed husband wrote, “Heaven seems closer and dearer than ever.” Then he goes on to list reasons why he can continue to live.
    We love you, Marilyn!
    And thanks again for that End of Life packet you gave me on Mother’s Day a couple of years ago. It’s on the top of our list to finish it up soon!


    1. It was a joy to take Dad! I asked him if he wanted pink punch at his funeral but didn’t get a straight answer! As I read this comment I had to laugh at what people will think of me for giving you and End of Life packet on Mother’s Day….What was I thinking?!


      1. That End of Life Packet: we got ours too, but put it off. A year ago we both faced death square in the face and when we recuperated enough we went to see a lawyer and along with our children made some very important decisions. Of course we won’t be around to decide a menu but coming from the South it won’t be pink punch and lemon squares. It will be potato salad and fried chicken with sweet iced tea!! Make mine uplifting, cheerful, and joyous. Good blog, Marilyn.


  5. In our little coal town in Pennsylvania, my grandmother always took her famous “Funeral Cake” to families who had lost a loved one. Other women brought pies or desserts, too. The bereaved family usually served a full dinner after the funeral in those days.Desserts would help with the costs and the work . This was our unspoken way of showing love.

    When one of my neighbors died during my first year in Mexico, I wanted to express support in the best way I knew how-I made a cake. When I took it to the gate, the widow was shocked. “My husband passed away.” she said slowly.

    “I heard,” Dread was starting to steal over me. It was quite obvious that this was not the custom here in Western Mexico.”I brought you a cake.”

    “But we are not having a party,” she did not extend her hands for the cake.

    In my limited Spanish, I tried to explain how neighbors show support in my part of the world. Mexicans are gracious.She took the cake.

    As I get older, I realize that no one can really deeply comfort a person who has lost a loved one. Only Jesus can. “Let not your hearts be troubled” has become a favorite verse. How important it is to share the Gospel with words and not just acts of kindness!

    At my funeral, I want white balloons to be released into the Heavens as a symbol of what has happened to me. I want to shock my neighbors one last time.


    1. Vicki – I love this story for its reminder of different cultural traditions. I’d love to use this comment as a blog post! White balloons released sounds perfect – for both celebration and shock value.


  6. I have thought about the hymns and that I want “no tributes”, but I hadn’t thought about the food and drink at the wake afterwards!

    I think I’ll have those delicious things while I’m still around to enjoy them!


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