Being a preacher/pastor for over half a century means I have led many a funeral. Some are very sad, resulting from circumstances surrounding the death. Those funerals are hard on all who attend. I have observed over the years that other funerals are a “mixed bag” in that there is both sadness mixed with joy. I’ve pondered the difference.
Here is what life at funerals has taught me:
- The WHO of dying: Who died always leaves its mark on the funeral. Either there is a sweet fragrance of a life well lived that hovers over the place, or in contrast – a gloomy cloud in the atmosphere.
- The WHEN of dying: Funerals are often unexpected, so untimely they leave us stunned. Some we are emotionally prepared for, due to a prolonged aging or illness. Then come those that no one could have predicted. They affirm the words of scripture, “What is your life, it is only a vapor that appears and suddenly vanishes away.”
- The WHY of dying: Any funeral begs the question “Why?” We often ask, “Why now? Why this person? Why this way?” Funerals are most often question marks on our psyche.
I just preached at a funeral that encompassed all three of those questions. It could have been an awful experience to sit through-yet it wasn’t. In the midst of the soul retching, sudden death of a dearly beloved sister in Christ- there was great JOY! There were tears, even weeping, but also many smiles, and the sweet aroma of joy in the room. The Psalmist said it well, “How precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” In what sense can death be precious to God? Well, to begin with, He is not a God of death-but rather of life! He sent His Son to live and die among us in order to give us the hope of an eternal life after the funeral. Because Christ is raised from the dead, we who love Him and know Him as our savior-we too are promised an eternal home with Him. I believe it is this promise that turns funerals into festivals.
I have lived to see many funerals that had much joy in the midst of the sadness. Always the element that makes this possible, is the presence of Jesus Himself in the proceedings. When He is the funeral director, He brings His JOY band to play, His angels to sing, and the music they make is gladness to the heart. No sad songs at this gathering when a vibrant, faithful child of God goes HOME!
So, Saralyn Murphy, my dear departed sister, we will see you in the morning, in that great gettin up morning! Till then, you inspire us to live as you lived-for Jesus!