Attending Funerals

I suppose it’s fair to say that funerals are the least appreciated and desired social events in any community, yet the truth is that we know we are going to die and those around us are facing death. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Most people look at death and funerals grimly and, as with many things in life, the truth is that Christians live differently and they can die differently. All my life I have been attending funerals and even before I knew I was evaluating what was going on I was evaluating what was going on. I remember attending every one of my grandparents’ funerals and even to this day, though I was very young, when one of them passed I remember some of the things that were done and at most of them some of the things that were said.

You may not be a regular attender of funeral services, but many people are. Just recently a person asked me, “What’s the point of this anyway?” I just quickly responded from the overflow of my own heart and mind saying, “There are a lot of good reasons for this, the funeral occasion.” I confess that while I did not say it, I did think about Yogi Berra. Yogi was said to have gone to a lot of funerals and someone asked him one day why he went to all those funerals. Yogi said, “If you don’t go to the funerals when your friends die, they won’t come to yours.”

As you well know, the funeral is not actually for the person who died but for the people who live. What are you supposed to do or say at a funeral? While you may not know all the etiquette or the niceties of what to say or not to say, you really don’t have to say anything. Your presence says volumes. What is the point of having a funeral or going to a funeral? For one thing, it is a sobering and stark reminder of how precious life is and how wonderful are our relationships. I know the troubles of life, pains, disease, hurtful relationships, can sap life of its joy and delight, but for the most part life is a precious thing and in the worst of our circumstances it is usually cherished. Life is a small capsule of time in which we live, and when it’s over we’re reminded of how precious it is.

The second thing about which you are reminded at a funeral is how fragile life is. There are days when we may feel strong and be on top of the world, but for every one of us in just a blink of an eye life can be over. A heart attack, a stroke, an accident, a violent attack, a tornado, an explosion, and life can be over. In a snap of your fingers, tough, strong, in charge, and on top of the world is all over. Life is fragile and we need to treat it with tenderness and grace and thanksgiving.

The third thing that is of value at a funeral is that it causes you and me to think about what we will leave behind. I’m not talking just about money or trinkets. Not furniture or guns or tools, but I’m talking about what you leave behind that people will remember of your life. What kind of disposition have you left with people? Did your smile light up a room or did your frown suck all the oxygen out of the room? What are you going to leave behind? A bright, cheerful, uplifting spirit, or a cranky, depressing, angry attitude? I don’t care who you are, you’re going to leave something behind. It may be bills rather than blessings. It may be gratitude rather than an inheritance, but you will leave something. Whether you like funerals or not, it’s a good gathering place to take a moment out of your day or week to just think about what you’ll leave behind.

The fourth and most important thing that can happen at a funeral is that you can realize how important it is to be ready when that time comes. It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or just celebrated your hundredth birthday. You need to be ready. There is no guarantee of years of long life. None. You just need to be ready. The only way truly to be ready to die is not just to fill out a will and prepare for your funeral, but to know the One who transcends earthly existence and gives us everlasting life and that is Jesus Christ. He can give you life and life everlasting. He can give you peace that reigns in your heart now and will be available at your last breath. You can trust Christ right now. As the Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Trust Him now.

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Jim Futral
Executive Director-Treasurer