My weeks in California were bookended by two funerals, one for Dr. Richard Gross, much loved former President of Gordon College and mentor to many, including Jud and me. Then, three days ago a service for, Dr. Ken Swetland, administrator and beloved professor from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Now that I’m older, I like funerals, as much or more than weddings, unless it’s my own. They’re significant occasions to learn from others who finished well, whose lives support the words spoken and written about them. Dick and Ken both lived life well. As Reid Swetland said of his Dad, ” He was true to God’s Word and his own word.”
In the quietness before organ notes, or words of welcome, there are those nods, smiles of recognition, and whispered words of encouragement. Still remembering. These families do not grieve alone, nor do we. The Bible passages read, prayers spoken, hymns sung together put melody and words to the faith that connects us, living and dead.
Funerals are a bit like a choir rehearsal, reminding us our words matter, as does listening to each other, knowing when to take a deep breath, watching for cues of when to join in or rest, and appreciating all the parts. We need each other, not just to make music worth a listen, but to live well and help each other make it Home.
Then, as if to put an exclamation point on the fact that death’s lost its stinger and finality, we leave the church service and enter a place prepared for a party. We mingle, laugh, tell stories, and fill plates from tables laden with food fit for the living, in honor of the dead.
All’s a reminder of One Day when we’ll gather at The Feast, when Grace will be the host, not a few mumbled words before we eat.
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