Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Yesterday we had a funeral for one of our church members, a wonderful woman whose name was Grace. There was no question about whether or not my husband or I would attend. He had to conduct the service and I was scheduled to play organ. But should we “make” our children go?
Grace had spent the last several years of her life in the nursing home, suffering from dementia. Aside from occasional visits, my children did not know her well. So when they asked me if they “had to go” to her funeral, I considered saying no. In fact, I may have said something like, “I don’t think so,” or “Probably not.”
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a mistake it would be for them to miss out on an opportunity to attend this funeral. So yesterday morning, I woke them and up, instructed them to dress in church clothes, and told them they were going to the funeral. My four-year-old was a bit puzzled. It wasn’t Sunday, and yet I was dressing him in a shirt and tie and getting him ready for church. “Mom,” he asked, “why do I have to go to the funeral?”
I thought carefully before answering him, and then explained the two reasons I wanted him there.
First, it’s important to attend funerals so that we may offer support and Christian love to the grieving family. As Christians, we understand that death is a good thing. We are deeply happy and thankful for the victory Christ won for the person who has passed. And yet, the earthly separation is painful. It’s only natural that we miss them and struggle to adjust to life without them. As I told Noah, “We are going because Grace was in our church family. And her children and grandchildren will be sad and lonely because she is gone. We need to let them know that we care about them and are praying for them.” This reason is easy to understand, even for a small child.
Second, funerals are a tangible reminder that our own death day is approaching, and they can help us prepare for this day. This reason was a little more difficult for Noah to understand, and I suppose I don’t blame him. No one likes to think about death. It’s likely the main reason most people dislike funerals or find them depressing. No one says, “Oh, yay! We have a funeral to attend on Saturday!” But like it or not, death is a real problem each one of us will face one day. By attending a Christian funeral, we are reminded that Jesus Christ has removed all fear of death and opened the doors to heaven for us. What a blessing to hear that message of grace!
I couldn’t help but think that yesterday’s funeral wasn’t really for Grace. She has already obtained her crown of life and has been gifted with eternal life. She is rejoicing in the presence of her Savior. Her funeral was more for her family and her friends, for me, and yes, for my children. It was for those of us who are following in her footsteps and still running our early race.
So it is with every Christian funeral I am able to attend before that day of my own funeral. They are precious opportunities be blessed with the message that Christ has conquered death, and to find comfort and joy in the knowledge that heaven is open to me.
There’s really no question about it. Such a funeral is always for me.