A Funeral For An Old Friend

Today, I attended a funeral for an old friend.  In many ways it was a pleasant day for a funeral—sunny and about 70.  It not what one would expect on a November day.

Most of the funerals that I have attended in the last few years have been snowing, cold, raining and/or dark.  I was once told by my grandmother that if it was raining at a funeral, it was because the angels were crying.  Since heaven had no tears, their tears fell to earth in the form of rain.  Angel tears.

Unfortunately, the day of my grandmother’s funeral was like today—sunny and warm.  I guess the angels were too busy to cry for her or for my friend today.

The music was typical—a number of piano hymns, very touching and comforting.  The music by the young man on the guitar was appropriate since my friend did not like high church productions—he was a simple, intelligent guy who loved his family, work, baseball and old cars.  For him an old abandoned car was just an opportunity waiting for a touch of restoration.

He always was smiling.  In the memory reflections his co-workers mentioned this over and over again.

The pastor gave a nice homily.  His focus was on the Gospel of John 11. 

This is the story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.  They were close friends of Jesus, the Nazarene teacher. 

As the account unfolds, Lazarus became sick and died.  Jesus and his disciples arrive in Bethany four days after his friend’s death.  According to Jewish belief the spirit left the body on the third day and so Lazarus had been sealed in his rock tomb.

The chapter says that Jesus wept.  Weeping is important because it does have comforting effects in the grieving process.

Many of us have stood at the graves of family and friends.  We have wept for our own sorrow of loss as well as for the collective loss of those about us. At those moments the interconnection between us on this planet is evident.

Of course, as the chapter relates Lazarus did not remain in the sleep of death.  Jesus raised him from the death and restored him to life.  After this chapter Lazarus is not mentioned again.

Many of us who have lost loved ones are looking for sweet solace and seeking the elusive comfort to embrace the reality of our loss.  For in these moments of grief we cling to whatever promise that we can find that after a night of sorrow and parting—there will be joy in the morning.

The pastor quoted John Donne’s poem DEATH BE NOT PROUD.  Here’s the original content of the poem in old English as read by Julian Glover.

After the homily, the young guitarist sang again.  This time we were asked to join in on the song—Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow. Good selection to end the service.

Because He Lives I Can Face Tomorrow

Unfortunately, life on this planet is brutally touched by the specter of death.  If the specter has intruded into your life—do you believe that joy will come in the morning?  Your departed friends and family will wake eternally and death will be no more?  There will be a reunion of family and friends?  Sickness and age will be no more?  Can you face tomorrow with hope and assurance?

Serious questions for all of us to ponder on this November day….

G. D. Williams       © 2010