I just got back to my office. This afternoon I had the honor of sharing words of comfort to the family of a friend at his funeral. My friend was 35 years my senior and a much better man than I. He stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in WWII. He didn't talk about it much. The memories of his friends dying in the surf of that beach and others who perished as they tried to ascend the cliffs that were before them were just to painful to recall. The world needs more heroes like my friend. More people who will risk their lives for a cause greater than themselves. Too many today are more likely to complain than conquer; given to criticsm not encouragement; to take the easy road that leads to nowhere than the long hard road that takes you to success. The outpouring of praise came from friends and family alike. I have done too many funerals where there was more bickering than weeping. I once said some nice things about a lady in our church during her memorial service. After the graveside service concluded one of her sisters made a b-line straight for me. Holding my arm firmly at the elbow she said, "If you knew my sister like I knew her, you would have never said such nice things about her." I doubt that were true. I make it a point to overlook personal deficiencies in character and conduct during a funeral. After all, that may be the only time some people ever have nice things said about them. I remember a joke about a preacher who was asked to do the funeral of one of the most crooked men in the community. The family met with him before the service and said if he couldn't find something nice to say about the deceased the preacher would have his house burned and land in the hospital, if not worse. The preacher, being a man of high integrity, could not tell a lie. So as he began his eulogy he said, "I have been encouraged to say something nice about the deceased. I think I can honestly declare that compared to the rest of his family, this man was a saint !"
That was not the case today. It was not hard to find nice things to say about my friend. It became obvious that he would be greatly missed by his family. The family had decided to open the casket for one last viewing after my message and before we traveled to the cemetery. Normally, I do not consider this a good idea. Once the casket is closed in the parlor, I think it only hinders closure that is essential in the healing process. But today it seemed natural and good. The sons and daughters, brothers, grand kids and great grand kids had to kiss their loved one just one more time. I have to admit, for the first time in years it brought me to tears. I was not sorrowful for my friend just as I don't believe Jesus was mourning His friend's death at the graveside of Lazarus. I was touched by the affection these people had for my friend. They were genuinely heart-broken. For just a moment I allowed myself to imagine that was me in that casket. I wondered if my boys would be weeping and kissing my forehead as these children were doing. I asked myself if people would be saying the same things about me when I'm gone or will someone pull the preacher aside and say, "You wouldn't have said such nice things about him if you had know him like I knew him?"
There is no faking a life will lived. The tears shed at the graveside are not manufactured. They come whether you want them to or not. Occassionally we need to ask ourselves, "Will the world be any less colorful when I'm gone?" Or, "Will I leave a void that will be difficult to fill in the lives of my family and friends? Will the sound made by my passing away be loud enough to cause anyone to notice or will I simply silently drift into eternity?" These are questions we all must ask if we are going to live our lives well. Sorry, if I got a little melancholy. Funerals do that to you sometimes.
In His Shadow,