The other day we gathered to say goodbye. The crisp March day blustered and weak sunshine peaked from behind puffy clouds. The church walkway was cluttered with mostly older folks. He was in his early seventies, a faithful servant, a husband, a father, a grandfather. We sang anthems of faith, about victory, about hope, about overcoming adversity and pain. We sang about Jesus. We listened to his daughters tell stories of his life, his mischief, his passion for others, and his joy. I sat with friends, tears streaming down my cheeks as we said goodbye to someone I didn’t really know.
We gathered because he belonged to a dear friend. We bore witness and offered our voices and tears as a testimony of love. I’ve been to my share, maybe more than my share of funerals, and I have learned there is something special about a good funeral.
Good funerals are celebrations of life. When the focus shifts from the loss to the celebration of a life well lived, a gathering can be transformed. Oh, this family will miss their husband, dad, granddad but they recognized that his life itself was a gift of tremendous grace. The loss of his light and love leaves a gaping hole, but on this day, they focused on the miracle of his living. This man’s love, mischief, and service filled their lives and hearts. They used this day to acknowledge that a good life is a gift, not to be clung to, but to be recognized and celebrated. His every day ordinary life was a gift of grace.
Good funerals remind us of what is important. No one lauded this man’s achievements. He was not rich by to most standards. His riches came from the impact on the lives of others. He served. He made life better for those around him. He made a difference to people near and far. He covered his family with laughter and practical support. He touched his community, by serving in small and large ways, consistently over many years. He touched the lives of those far away as he used his talents and time to help those in need. He shared his life and all who knew him were better for it.
Good funerals remind us that everyday choices matter. The decisions we make day in and day out add up to a life. It is the sum of these daily decisions that reveal the true measure of our lives. Family and friends spoke of who he always was. He was the guy who… helped out, ferried the grandkids, showed up, saw you. When lives are remembered, we may recognize the big things and acknowledge the accomplishments, but it is the little everyday things that fill in the story. For this man, the celebration highlighted the character and legacy of a life well lived. A life lived with generosity and great love.
It is good for me to remember that living and dying are not mutually exclusive. Inevitably, dying is a part of life. It is good for my heart to recognize that time rolls forward, and long days are not a promise but a gift. Life is fragile and precious, and how I use my hours and minutes, how I share my life and with whom are important questions to consider. Because, well someday, I want to have a good funeral.