Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Death is a bastard

Aunt Thelda, my dad's aunt, died last week of a stroke at 85 years old. Wife of one husband, widow for decades, member of one small country church her entire life.

I wondered how the funeral would be. Would the gospel take center stage? Would harmful cliches and corrupt eschatology win the day?

Well, I was blessed beyond all anticipation as this missionary baptist pastor seemed to strike the perfect balance between honoring the faithful life of a dear Woman while pointing to the only basis by which Aunt Thelda will be resurrected.

Here is the summary. I would be very satisfied if this were my testimony at the end of my life:

1.) Aunt Thelda loved children. Despite the disapproval of many whom had seen Halloween as "the devil's holiday", Aunt Thelda not only supported kids enjoying the fun day - but she actually DRESSED UP every year with the children of Prairie Grove, Arkansas and took them trick or treating. Little first and second grade kids would ask their mommy's and daddy's if they could sit with Aunt Thelda during Worship. She taught, loved, hugged and kissed children until her final days. Wow. Do you really need to know more?

2.) Aunt Thelda cooked constantly, untold number of meals, for family, friends, and neighbors. She had dishes and deserts for which she was famous. Her nephew talked about certain dishes specifically with as much admiration as (perhaps) Albert Eisenstein's early descendants talked about his unique intellectual accomplishments. And indeed, it was easy to see how her hospitality has had more effect for the Kingdom than the atom bomb.

3.) Aunt Thelds cared deeply for the church.
They called her little white country house a "communication hub". Now, the reason they can call it that and everyone laugh and cry is because she wasn't a gossip. Rather, she was women with a life dominated by prayer- and she wanted to know what to ask Jesus for.

But the most beautiful thing was to hear the pastor say that none of these things are the basis for Thelda's redemption. In fact, Thelda was a sinner till the day she died and it took the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to guarantee her salvation, and his victory over the grave to give her sure hope of resurrection.

I love good funerals. Death is a bastard. And I need to be reminded of how essential the gospel is.