Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good at funerals

When I was a kid and went to funerals, I always hung back from the center of activity and did all I could to restrain myself from bolting for the door. But I remember that my mom was good at funerals. She charged right in and she always knew just what to do. One of my most vivid memories of Mom was watching her literally carry my aunt through my uncle’s funeral. Without my mom holding her up, I think my Aunt Margaret would have collapsed onto the ground.

She was always like that. When no one else knew quite what to do to help a woman who had lost her husband, my mom knew. I always assumed that she knew because she had been there. Now that I’m older, I think there was more to it than that. Walking through the illness and death of her husband, my father, taught her something about resurrection living.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you can probably remember people like my mom, the ones God sent into your life to carry you through it: the person who brought you a meal or watched your children; the person who gave you permission to talk about the one who had died; the person who accepted you as you were, never once telling you what you should be feeling or glossing over your pain with a cliché or a Bible verse; the person who held you while you cried.

We appreciate people like that because we know that not everyone can do it. Some people are so freaked out by death that they can’t deal with it. They run away and hide until it’s all over and then later they re-appear.

Although we Christians talk a lot about resurrection, I suspect that what we really want is a God who will rescue us from our mortality. We want death to be deleted from the human experience. Yet that’s not the kind of God we have. Instead, we have a God who resurrects us from our big and little deaths, not by putting an end to them, but by transforming us as we walk through them: creating life in the midst of grief, creating love in the midst of loss, creating faith in the midst of despair. Every time death finds us, we are reminded that the only road to Easter morning runs smack dab through Good Friday.

I’d like to believe that on some level, my mom understood what resurrection is about in much the same way that I do. I understand it because I’ve experienced it. I’m not the same person who wanted to run away from death as a child. Like my mom, I’ve walked through death in my life and found new life on the other side. And like my mom, I’m good at funerals.

She died when I was 28 and we never had the opportunity to discuss stuff like this. She wasn’t a “religious” person, so I’m not sure if we ever could have. But someday we will.

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