Several years ago, my Aunt Judy passed away and went home to be with Christ. She had suffered for a long time in her battle with cancer and now she was not suffering any longer. We left that Friday morning for the service that weekend. It was an unexpected drive but we got to spend some time with family. While we were there, we also got a chance to go see my Aunt Ruth, who had also been diagnosed with cancer but was just beginning her battle. She recognized us. She talked with us and told us how great my dad and the family had been for her during this time. We only spent a short time with her as she appeared tired and needed some rest. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the last time that I would see her.
The very next Monday, while on my way to work, I got a call very early in the morning from Dad. Those were 2 things out of the ordinary. Getting a call from home early in the morning and it being from dad. I knew what the call was about even before I answered it, but my fear was confirmed as Aunt Ruth now joined other members of my family that have gone on before me. We made plans to return home again for yet another death in our family.
Having two funerals this close together, I began to notice certain things about death and about people that I had not had the opportunity to notice before:
1 – Most funerals that I had been to in the past were all “feel good” funerals talking about the memories of the deceased. Not so this time. The pastor that did the funeral yesterday came out swinging. He told of a previous service that he had done where the only one saved in the building was “Momma” and he was doing her funeral. He quickly reminded the family that if they didn’t know Jesus, and didn’t have a relationship with Him, there were NOT going to see “Momma” again. He lowered the boom like I had never seen it before. As soon as he did, I stepped up the prayers as I had done just a few weeks ago at Judy’s service for the member of my family who isn’t saved. Getting an unsaved family member to church on Sunday morning to hear the gospel message isn’t as easy as when a family member passes away and they are at their funeral. People at a funeral service are, (as Shan put it) a “captive” audience. Many members of my family in that church yesterday were not saved, but they heard the gospel. Some heard it for the second time in a few weeks. So even when we don’t have the words to share with a close friend or family member, God’s message will get to them. Then the choice is up to them. We can’t make it for them.
2 – Family will surprise you just when you need it. More than once, I heard it said Wednesday night, “Seems like we were just here” or “The last time that I saw you was at a funeral, here”. Going to a funeral is tough on anyone. Going to 2 within a short period of time, is almost too much to ask especially of a family that had just lost one of their own. Even Mrs. Stone, who just lost her best friend in the world when Mr. Stone passed away just months ago, was there. She is the brightest light in any room. Her smile, her laugh, and her almost crazy ways can put a smile on anyone even at their darkest time. She is such a true God send to my family and we love her for it. Dad’s family came through when Judy passed now mom’s family came through when Ruth passed. I got to reconnect with cousins that I haven’t seen in years and it was almost like no time apart had passed. We laughed together, cried together and all promised to not let the next time that we see each other be this long or be because of another loss.
Finally, the one thing that stood out to me was when the funeral home arrived at the church with Aunt Ruth. Me, Chris and Aunt Ruth’s other nephews were all pallbearers. Not a fun task especially at mom’s church with a VERY steep set of steps, but an honor for us none the less. Because of this, we were all at the church when the hearse arrived. It was long, sleek and every inch of it shined like it was a new penny. This made me realize that in life, sometimes the greatest “ride” we have is our last ride. As long as I have known the friends and relatives that have passed on, I don’t remember any of them having a car that was as nice as the hearse they were carried to the grave site in. I think this parallels our last trip. I have been very fortunate to be able to take a lot of trips in my life. I have been to Chicago, to Washington D.C., to Boston, California, and even Hawaii but none of these places, none of these trips will even come close to the last trip that I take to be with Christ. No journey and no destination here will ever come close.
My bags are packed and I’ve already been through check-in. I’m ready. Are you?
Dear God, Thank you so much for the opportunity to have both of my aunts in my life. Both of them loved me and my family unconditionally and completely. Both of them loved You and both are now with You and the other members of my family that have been there for a while. You have blessed me in every direction with loving and caring family who came through for us even at a tough time like these past weeks. Now you have planted the seed of Your Gospel in family members that needed to hear it. Now send others to water it.