As I was driving from the funeral service this morning to the graveside, the song “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone” played on the car radio. How totally appropriate the words of this song were for the moment. A sweet friend left a few days ago to be with Jesus and now his chains of dementia are gone. The ravages of the recent stoke have been destroyed and now he is whole and free. How do I know that? Because he had given his life to Jesus Christ and the Word of God promises us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
The pastor made the statement that the hardest part of a funeral are the days after. No truer words have been spoken. When all the arrangements have been made and completed and all the friends and family return to their lives, the hard truth of your changed life comes crashing in. I remember craving for the doorbell to ring so I might find a friendly face waiting to spend some time with me. There are days that is still true.
Although he will no longer be there with them in body, this sweet, loving man left them a most precious gift. In 1998, apparently being led by God’s Spirit (that’s what I believe!), he sat down and wrote a letter to his wife and children expressing his deep, deep love for them and for God. It was somewhat prophetic in that it dealt with the possibility of a time when his mind might cause him to say or do things outside of his control. The family struggled about sharing such a personal letter at the funeral, but how blessed we were that they made the decision to do so.
Even though those words were penned almost 20 years ago, they were powerful. This highly educated, proud man took the time to pull down his mask and share his very heart with the people whom he loved the most. Now they will have this last gift, which was found in an envelope of things he had told his wife she would need upon his death, to cherish and to read and reread on those hard days that will surely come. Oh what I would give to have a such a gift from my late husband!!!
Why do we have so much trouble expressing our deepest thoughts with those we love? Why is it so hard to peel off the facade and be real? Why do we let pride steal so many opportunities? Maybe it is hard to look someone in the eyes and be totally real, but what about just writing it down. You could give it to them now or leave it for later, but it would mean so much. Our next breath isn’t promised. Don’t take for granted that you will have a chance later. Speak it or write it now.
It probably won’t surprise you that I am a letter writer. Before his death, I would leave my husband letters. He wasn’t very good at sharing feelings, so this worked best for me. I’ve also written several letters to my dad. It’s important to me for him to hear those words now instead of others hearing them at his funeral service. There are certainly others I need to share with also. Who might need to hear from you? Don’t wait. They need to hear how much you love them.
Please allow me a couple other observations from today. This was a military funeral with the 3 gun salute and taps. Tear-jerking, for sure! To watch those men in uniform carefully and slowly, with total reverence, take our nation’s flag and fold it was such an awe-inspiring event. I never tire of that. One of the young soldiers knelt before this new widow and looked her firmly in her eyes and spoke words of appreciation of her husband’s service to this country. Yes, our country has it’s issues, but how ironic that this same flag is handled so carefully by some and yet spit upon and burned by others. It is a sad commentary of where we are for such actions to take place. This flag waves because lives were given for it. That should warrant our respect.
Respect is sorely missing in our culture, but as we drove to the cemetery, most people pulled off to the side of the road and allowed us to pass to our destination. It was their way of doing something for someone they didn’t even know. Sure, it caused them to arrive a bit later than they would have, but I know my heart was stirred by their show of respect. Let’s us do that, too, because 1 day it will be you or me in the front of that funeral line.
My heart is heavy as I think of the days ahead for this family. But thankfully, they know Jesus and His strength will carry them through. But as I wrote in my last post, we need to remember the widows. The days after the funeral are hard and your visit, phone call, or card is important.
Lots of love, Sharon