Sharing each other's burden...
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic,
love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 NIV
The weather had been dreary for weeks, but the day of the funeral dawned bright and clear. It could easily have been considered a beautiful day, if we were doing something else-fishing, getting married, camping, going for a walk. But this day we would be burying my grandfather, and there was difficult work to do.
The family got to the church early to make sure things were right. And of course, things weren't right. Not only were we missing my grandfather, but the power point wouldn't work that my cousin so diligently created and she was beside herself with grief and frustration. A woman came from work to fix that. At the last minute, the family considered the littlest great grandchildren's and great-grand daughter's response to Pops being "asleep" and we made a frantic search for a babysitter. Fortunately, a dear friend and her children came to the rescue easing the burden for the parents, and the older generations. My husband went to the funeral home instead of the church, but this also allowed me to be able to offer small comfort to my aunts by running for water and being helping hands where needed. God seemed to be with us in so many ways.
The viewing was incredible. The line was out the front of the church for hours. Partly as a joke, mostly because we were worried they would all speak (just kidding), we kept a pastor tally and counted at least 14. At least, there were 14 who 'fessed up to it! The pictures, the powerpoint, and the people that some of us hadn't seen in so long brought back sweet memories. My first Sunday school teacher (who we all know as "Teacher" and I am somewhat ashamed I still don't know her full name) recognized me. Some other women claimed to be Sunday school teachers, but "Teacher" is the one I remember most.
But, the best was yet to come! The casket was closed for the funeral and such a rejoicing time followed! I would not have thought we could have so much fun at a funeral. Of course, my grandfather always was a joker himself, and I know Pops was laughing with us. We laughed during my aunt's eulogy when she reminded us of how helpful he was, always had some odd part you needed in a hidden crevice of the basement. The crowd laughed as I poked a little fun at myself for being a nosy child who peeked inside pulpits, then admitted I had done it that very day. The pastor holding the service confessed that he and my grandfather didn't always see eye to eye on everything, but he knew Pops was talking to the Lord right then saying, "What? He really was right???" We laughed at how Pops rewired things in an interesting manner and how he was nearly electocuted one time but never let them know it. We heard stories of lives changed, hearts saved, and baptisms in the creek before the church's baptismal pool was installed. I loved hearing how my Pops was a "church planter before the term was cool" from a friend who had gone to Lancaster Bible College with him.
So many lively, wonderful stories! One could not help but be proud of such a home-going! I think all the saints would aspire to such a funeral. During the pastor's message, he reminded us that, even as we celebrate him going home, there is a party in heaven to celebrate his homecoming. He isn't just with Jesus and those family members that preceded him, but he is celebrating stories of lives changed that rippled into other lives....just as we were here.
After the burial, the family, and some friends who stayed to fellowship, were treated to a luncheon by the Silver Spring Baptist Church. It was more like a fun family picnic that we would have on Pop's birthday. I cannot think of a more fitting end to a most extraordinary day! We laughed, we told more stories, we caught each other up on our lives, and we watched the babies play. Although we lost our patriarch, we were still family.
None of this joy would be possible without the believers who had taught us, loved us, supported us, mourned with us, but also hoped with us. We were never alone in this. God was all around us, in the "one another-ness" of the Christian family.