Nancy White Kelly
I didn’t know the deceased. She was the mother-in-law of one co-worker and the grandmother of another. My decision to attend the funeral service was mostly to show my care for the grieving family. Losing a loved one is never easy. I am an adult orphan to death myself.
For whatever reason, the hearse would be late to the church. For nearly thirty minutes I occupied the waiting time by gazing at the menagerie of folks. They whispered quietly among themselves, often shifting uncomfortably in the hard wood pews.
As if in another decade, the majority of men were nicely dressed in suits or at least shirts with ties. Only a few women wore pants which made me glad I had worn my navy and white dress. The attention to attire was a testimony to the respect the gatherers had for the departed lady.
Finally the hearse arrived. The congregation stood as the large extended family solemnly filed into the narrow rows, filling one and then another until the center section was nearly full.
Until her stroke some months ago, the eighty-two- year-old woman had helped wear those church pews thin. How many hymns had she sung in praise of her Lord? How many prayers had she lifted up to the throne of heaven on behalf of others? God has the answers. He even knows the number of hairs on our head.
On this sad day, the lady’s granddaughter and other loved ones sang songs on her behalf that paid tribute to her great faith. Two preachers, most likely a father and son, shared the eulogy and sermon interspersed with a medley of funeral music. Though slightly out of tune due to age and use, the up-right piano seemed the perfect accompaniment to the life of the lady in the casket. Tears and tissues were the norm for the best part of two hours.
For me, the stranger in the midst, the hustle and bustle from my daily routine at school and the coin shop was temporarily suspended. The importance of family, the reality of death, and the blessed hope of a new day in a new place caught my full attention. The preacher closed with reminder that each of us will have a turn.
I am ready for the journey, but prefer that my ticket not be punched today. As Robert Frost once wrote, “I have miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.”
I think I have so much to do first. But by what right does the watch have to tell the watchmaker when to pull the stem? Or the clay to tell the potter when to take his hands away from the watery wheel? As the book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time to live and a time to die.” We are molded for a purpose and when our usefulness is done, God calls for the death angel.
Roses are for the living. Funerals are for those left behind to mourn. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.