Stop The Clocks

Pastoral Messages | February 4, 2021

The 90’s movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, is a brilliant romantic comedy, but my favorite part is not any of the jokes or the weddings, but the funeral. The friends gather to mourn the death of Gareth, a man of enthusiasm and unbridled joy. His partner, Matthew, full of dignified love and sorrow, recites the poem “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden. It begins:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The poem names this truth that when someone dies, the world stops. At least it does for the people who grieve. Their world moved in a particular way, because of the life and actions and love of a particular person. Now that world is different, like someone moved the furniture around in the living room while they slept, and each step is a stubbed toe as they learn to navigate the world in a new way.  

“Stop all the clocks,” Auden writes, “. . . let the mourners come.” Our rituals of grief and mourning are the ways that we mark this shift in our world, name the realities of our loss, and pay attention to the ways our world is different. We set aside time to pray, to share stories, to sit in quiet and cry, stopping the clocks to remember and mourn. 

It’s harder these days, though. We don’t have the same opportunities to accompany one another in grief. For good reasons of mutual care, we sing and pray together. We don’t eat ham sandwiches and cheesy potatoes while we laugh and cry together. So we do the next best thing. We log into funerals by watching them on YouTube. We write letters that share our favorite stories with the bereaved. We make phone calls and have Zoom memorials. 

These moments matter and bring us such healing, but sometimes they feel like not quite enough. Partly because they don’t often give us space. It’s sort of funny, isn’t it? To turn off the screen or hang up the phone and then go right back to the regular routine? So it is my encouragement that all of us, in our varied varieties of sadness and grief these days, stop the clocks a little to remember. 

Just sit and be still. Name the ways that God has blessed you through the people you love who have died. Feel the sadness that is the receipt you carry from having loved, or breath a sigh of relief that their suffering is now over. Go for a walk, or bake a cake, or whittle some wood, or read a poem, and just make space. In whatever way makes sense, stop the clocks, and let the mourning come. The only way to the other side, after all, is through. 

And in that stopping, rest in the truth that gives us hope and comfort. God is our help in ages past and for years to come. Because of Jesus, death is not the end, for our loved ones or for us. Even as we weep, we can take comfort in the promise that nothing, neither death nor life, neither disease nor despair, nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

So stop your clocks, but know that God’s love for you, will not, cannot, stop.

-Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

14 Comments on “Stop The Clocks”

  • Patty Scott

    February 5, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    Sara, Thank you for your wonderful message that brought me such comfort today. February 4th is the anniversary of my Mother’s passing several years ago. Your words were just what I needed on that chilly day,?

  • Jeanne Olsen

    February 5, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Yes thank you so much. My aunt just died at age 99. It was time. She was more than ready. But she was the last of that generation so there’s additional grief. And she was the story keeper of our Norwegian heritage. Layers of grief.
    Thank you, Sarah.

  • Marcia Willi

    February 5, 2021 at 8:53 am

    Yes, I felt EXACTLY that way when my folks passed away. Like the clocks had stopped, why was everyone going on w/ their lives as usual? I sometimes still feel that way after 2 plus decades! Thanks Sarah

  • Jeanne Withycombe

    February 4, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you, Sara, for these beautiful words. They were special for me.

  • Vicki Felger

    February 4, 2021 at 8:05 pm

    Your heading, “Stop the Clocks” was so compelling because I sometimes feel as though all the clocks have stopped…the days pass slowly, the hours creep by and all of a sudden we are in another year! Yet, the pandemic is still with us….I loved this passage and now will breathe and let the clocks move ahead and bless the days that have past!

  • Diane Swayne

    February 4, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Sarah your message was beautiful and a blessing to me today. Dealing with the sorrow of our Stephen has been hard. Your words today were welcomed today.
    God bless

  • Audrey Keeney

    February 4, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    I found this so helpful today also. Each death of a loved one has brought such a ache this past year. So this advice is so good to think of and do. The memories are needed to celebrate the individual with their loved ones. We have not been able to do that because of COVID. “Stop the Clock” will and does help.

  • Diana Holland

    February 4, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful heartfelt message on this cold, snowy, wintry day.

  • Tina Harper

    February 4, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Beautifully written, Sarah, and so true. I also love that movie and Auden’s poem. During this long pandemic I’ve remembered and missed so many loved ones. This is what I needed on this cold snowy day.

  • Sheila Mesick

    February 4, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    So many stops in our flow of living these days to work through. Thankful for the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. I’m reading Roland Merullo’s Breakfast With Budda. It is a good read on loan from our public library.

    • Sheila Mesick

      February 4, 2021 at 4:38 pm

      Typo, that book is Breakfast With Buddha. A novel about a man whose parents both died in an automobile accident and the journey he has in dealing with settling their estate.

  • Becky Cook

    February 4, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you Sara. That was beautiful! I have been scrapbooking during Covid. Putting all those loose pictures in an album and reliving all those memories of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Reflection has made me so much more aware of all the blessings God has given me.

  • Ronda Bird

    February 4, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    Oh boy! Did I ever need this reflection today. ?

  • Anke Maass

    February 4, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    perfect words for a tough week!!

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