I was delivered from the burden that had so heavily suppressed me. The spirit of mourning was taken from me, and I knew what it was to truly rejoice in God my Savior.
The words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes come to mind as I think about matters of life and death. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die ... a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Funeral plans are made when people are vulnerable, weighed down by grief. Shopping with others can be difficult, but group shopping in the midst of sudden loss has another level of challenge. My father had requested an economy version casket rather than the more luxurious model that was being suggested by the funeral home salesman. I’ve had sales training and experience myself, so I’m probably a bit more skeptical than the average shopper.
The sales tactics used at the funeral home were not the same as those at the car lot, but the end result of both encounters was the same. It was about the money. One enticed towards earthly pleasure (a luxurious automobile) and the other attempted to overwhelm with guilt.
It was I who finally mustered up the nerve to ask if we could see the cheapest casket available. Reluctantly, the salesman opened an accordion door in the back of the showroom that revealed a small collection of budget models for our viewing. One person in our party wasn’t 100% certain that choosing the cheapest vault and casket was the right thing to do. Our little company of shoppers wasn't fully united.
The uncertain member of our group asked the salesman a single question which swept us all into an even more emphatic explanation of all the things that we wouldn’t be getting with the cheaper selections. Protection from the unseen, underground elements were not guaranteed with the budget models. An extreme bout of cynicism rushed through me as I resisted asking questions about the “guarantees.” If these products failed in some way, it would not matter to those of us with eyes set on eternity. My father’s earthly body had served its purposes.
Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
I was having lunch with a new friend not so long ago when the subject of death came up. She told me she doesn’t believe that we are destined to die only once. She believes in reincarnation. When I asked her about it, she said simply, “I just cannot believe that we only get one waltz around the dance floor.”
She has accomplished many things in her life, including heading back to graduate school after raising her family to earn a doctorate degree. Mixed in with her successes are some serious losses she grapples with. The biggest is the great wound in her heart from having to bury a beloved adult son.
While I was pondering the days of my father’s passing, news came that his youngest son, my own baby brother, had also died. My father would have been so proud of the five sons born to this late brother of mine, had he been able to see them grow from boys to men.
Saved to my desktop is a beautiful photograph of many family members. It was captured at the cemetery on the day that my brother was buried on a hill overlooking the big lake called Gitche Gumee – Lake Superior. It reminds me of the hugs, tears and conversations shared on that beautiful autumn day that will not soon be forgotten. Amidst the time of mourning, there was also time to dance.