March 3, 2015
Obituary: Solveig Janette “Sally” Sorenson
Solveig was fiercely proud of her strong Norwegian heritage. Syttende Mai was a sacred High Holy Day in her book and she could have lived on lefse alone. But in at least one significant way, she differed from the stereotype we have of a stoic Norwegian (there may be others, but with a name like Schneider, I can never be considered an arbiter of anything Norwegian). This is the difference I noticed: Solveig was not shy, but positively effusive, in expressing her love. Many people–including me–are hard pressed to remember a conversation with Solveig that didn’t include her saying “I love you” several times and kissing us at least once–sometimes right on the lips.
And that is part of the reason Solveig’s death is so hard for so many people. When someone regularly expresses love for us–not just in words and kisses but also in actions, big and small–from simple greeting cards to generous financial gifts–it’s hard to say goodbye. To the very end, she wanted to protect those she loved from hardship or pain. But she couldn’t do that because the cost of great love is great pain when it is gone. This week many people are experiencing great pain. Solveig’s death hits us hard and close because her life hit us hard and close.
Countless conversations now often include the question, “What would Solveig want?” Which is impossible to answer, of course, and which we will get wrong at least as often as we get it right. And that is why it’s so important to turn to the reading that the family chose for today from 1 Cor. 13: “Love is patient and kind, it is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude; it does not seek its own way,” etc. If Solveig’s great gift to us is love, then the answer to “What would Solveig want?” is always that she would want us to act out of love–for her and for one another. To honor her life and her legacy is to conduct our interactions with honor and respect and compassion. To dismiss one another’s feelings or needs as unimportant or misguided is to miss the mark of love and to dishonor her legacy.
But even if we put our very best effort into living each day with love, I can already tell you that we will not always succeed. Our own wants and needs will get in the way sometimes. That is just how human relationships work. Solveig didn’t always love perfectly. We didn’t always love Solveig perfectly, and we won’t now. We don’t love each other perfectly. We don’t love God or the world God made perfectly. Love never fails? Um….well….
Except that this passage is not about our love or Solveig’s love, which even at its brightest, was not complete. The Love that never fails, the Love that never seeks its own way, is never boastful or proud–that’s God’s love, not human love. God’s love bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things. God does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. God’s love never fails.
God never failed to love Solveig her entire 97 years. God was her ever-constant companion through her triumphs and her failures, her doubts and struggles, her griefs and her heartbreaks, her joy and her passion. Whether she was rejoicing at the birth of a new grandchild or great-grandchild, or weeping over the death of her own daughter or sister, God never stopped loving her. God was right there with her when she was dancing at a party, and when she felt hopeless and alone.
Our love for Solveig has failed, will fail. But God’s love for her is never-ending. The Good News for us here today is that God’s love for us is also never-ending. When we love each other, God is with us. When we hurt each other, God is there too. God is with us when we guess rightly what Solveig would want , and when we miss the mark by a mile. God will be with us in the days and weeks to come, when grief hangs over us like a cloud, and when we celebrate with the joyous, raucous enthusiasm of a Norwegian fjord. Because, as the author of Romans describes it in the other reading the family chose for today, “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” And the Lord’s love never fails.