Today I attended the funeral of a man much respected for his wit, long career in education, and partnership in a long and successful marriage. He and his wife had been active and faithful in every church they attended, and were charter members of two of them. The family was seated in the reserved front row.
My church members gave a good turnout to both mourn the man’s death and to celebrate his life. We are a small church, but a very faithful one, led by a great theologian and truth-teller, who eloquently spoke about this special member who had died.
After the service, the family received attendees in a line. As we were waiting, the couple behind me commented on how the man’s recently widowed wife was smiling and laughing about one of the stories told about her husband, who was quick to observe and wittily shared quips about things that he noticed. He had a way of making one feel special and in on the joke. For example, I have a dress I particularly liked to wear starting around spring when the crocus start blooming. Whenever he saw me wear that dress, he would come up to me and say, “Now that’s a yellow dress.”
It always made me smile, and I would generally reply, ”It reminds me of a dress I used to wear when I was a teenager.” These were usually short exchanges, and satisfied both the speaker and the listener because the short quips were a kind of acknowledgement; an exchange of attention delivered and received with kindness and humor.
So it is fitting that his widow would laugh with and even comfort others who reminisced as they went through the receiving line. This lady has always been well groomed, positive, and quick to laugh. I noticed this years ago, and as the couple next to me remarked upon her composure at the reception, I observed, ”She is teaching us how this is done,” meaning with grace and humility. She is a Southern lady. I plan to visit her soon to take her to lunch or for coffee if she feels like it.
Outside, as we were walking to the car, my fellow church member and I were invited to a restaurant for an early dinner. There we continued an easy exchange of stories about food, our families, and our church community. It was pleasant, and a positive way to end a sad but happy event of losing a church member to his death, yet knowing he had lived his life in Christ, and will be resurrected in Christ and live in the Kingdom of God forever. Not only did his widow teach us how to be gracious, but the man also taught us during his life how to be faithful and live with humor. As we sometimes say here in the South, ”It was a good funeral.”