WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Love Does Not Disappear

By Elea Kemler

"Mysterious Source of Love, moving within and between and among us; upholding and connecting all: the living, the dead, and the generations yet to come. We give thanks for the web of all creation, strands interwoven. And for the gifts of love, which can never be ungiven or unraveled."
—Rev. Molly Housh Gordon

In the eighteen years I’ve served as minister of my small-town congregation, I have led 96 memorial services, most for people I have loved. I didn’t realize how much the deaths would hurt. The longer I stay, the deeper I love and the more I grieve. This seems so obvious, but I was surprised by it. Another surprise has been how our beloved dead seem to make themselves known; how they seem to linger with us for a little while.

Once, after a memorial service, everyone left the church and gathered on the sidewalk in the sunlight of a still, summer afternoon. As we stood there, a huge gust of wind blew down the street. We could see it coming, almost like a tumbleweed. For maybe five seconds, the wind was all around us and over us. We turned and watched the gust blow down the street and then it was completely still again. “There she goes,” someone said.

Another time, I was about to lead the memorial service for a man who shared a love of butterflies with his wife. Their home was filled with images of butterflies and we had put a photo of one on the program. As I stood at the church door, a huge orange and black butterfly flew near. It circled me three times, above my head, around my shoulders, at my knees and then flew away. When I told his wife about it, she nodded. “Butterflies have been all around me since he died,” she said.

Last spring a beloved elder died who believed he would be reincarnated as a red-tailed hawk. I told the congregation about his death at Sunday morning services. I had taped a picture of a red-tailed hawk on the front pew where he always sat. Several people told me that as I was making the announcement, they were looking out the sanctuary windows and saw a large hawk soaring above the church.

Over the years I've heard many stories – stories about dragonflies and rainbows and love songs coming on the radio at just the right moment. Maybe it is just coincidence. Maybe we’re looking for signs so we find them. But maybe those we love are nearer to us than we realize. Maybe love is vaster than the limits of our understanding. I believe that it is.


Source of Love, we are sustained and upheld by the love of those who have gone before us. May we know, deep in our bones, that love does not disappear.

About the Author

Elea Kemler

Rev. Elea Kemler (she/her/hers) has been the minister of First Parish Church of Groton, MA for twenty years and counting. She lives with her husband and two 17-year-olds and mostly loves being a small-town minister where she gets to bless just about everything, from chickens to the new postmaster.


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The corner of a gravestone, which is bedecked with toys and flowers and a fake butterfly stuck in the grass.

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