Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. –Psalm 139:16 (NIV)
Yesterday I played organ for the funeral of my mother’s cousin. Call me strange, but I have always loved funerals. The first one I remember attending was my paternal grandfather’s when I was five years old. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so sad. I wanted to go up to my grandma and give her a big hug and say, “Grandma, it’ll be okay. Grandpa’s in heaven now.” In my mind, heaven was a wonderful place. It still is.
I play organ for quite a few funerals. For each one, I try to learn a little something about the deceased and select the music accordingly. For instance, if I know the person was in the military, I will frequently play “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as part of the recessional. They honored our country with their service. I want to say thank you in my own little way. (If it’s a faux pax to play a Marine hymn for someone who served in a different branch of the military, well … at least my heart is in the right place.) If the family of the deceased is somewhat leery about church, I will play more contemporary pieces that are comforting but less somber. I frequently send up a quiet blessing to the person who died saying, “This one’s for you.”
But I think the reason I absolutely adore funerals is because I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow, Rose is at peace. Her suffering is over.” Or, if the person wasn’t suffering but died unexpectedly in an accident of some kind, I will think, “George is so lucky. He no longer has to wonder HOW he’s going to die. He doesn’t have to worry. He is in a far better place. He is living the good life now. He gets to celebrate Easter (or Christmas or his birthday) with the LORD and his friends and family members who preceded him in death. In my mind, there is so much joy and happiness for the person who has crossed over from this life to life everlasting. Although we are sad to no longer have the person with us in our life, we can rejoice that they are whole and happy and healthy.
Those thoughts have intensified over the past few years as I contemplate the direction our world is going. We have drifted so far from Truth and Morality and the fruits of the Spirit. Up is Down and Wrong is Right. Selfishness and a lack of the sanctity of life reign supreme. It’s a crazy, mixed-up stressful world. However, for the person who has a deep relationship with the LORD, there is hope and joy and excitement. There is peace and love and anticipation. We have something to look forward to. We have a heavenly home waiting for us. When our loved ones die, we have the anticipation of one day seeing them again. When we sit by their side as they are close to death, we can lovingly brush their hair and whisper in their ear, “Gertie, you’re going to a party. We need to get you ready. You are going to be beautiful. Wait until your loved ones see you!”
I realize this is not true for everyone. There are non-believers out there who can’t understand the concept of heaven. I feel sorry for them. How depressing and sad to think that when you die there is nothingness. How frightening to think that this life is all there is. We have a deep obligation to share the Source of our joy and excitement to those who will listen (and sometimes–in subtle ways–even to those who won’t). People need hope. People need something to believe in … something Good and Loving and Right. We who believe in life everlasting know Who defines those attributes. Let’s make sure our hurting sisters and brothers come to know Him as well.
Dear LORD… you have prepared a place for us. You know the exact time we will leave this earthly place we call home, and we can look forward to that moment with anticipation and joy. The best is yet to come! Amen.
How about you? What are your thoughts on funerals? Dread them? Celebrate them? How do you feel about your own impending death?