This morning I attended the funeral of a coworker’s mother. During the service, the minister talked about death being life’s one true common denominator, and while that is certainly true, I also think it is true that death is something people deal with in a million different ways. I don’t like funerals – maybe because the ones I’ve attended have all seemed so stuffy and regimented to me. I’m just going to say this, there is not really any PC way to do it, so I’ll just put it out there – white people, in my experience, tend to think of funerals as a part of the grieving process, and therefore, they are sad, weighty, terrible events – never really celebrations of life, even if that is how we think of them.
This funeral, in a room filled to capacity with African Americans of all ages, shapes and sizes, had its sad and solemn moments, but was mostly a great celebration of a long life well spent. I sat there watching and listening to this event in awe; I was so taken by the way these people turned to God in their moment of great need. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not hugely religious, I am what one might consider a religious bystander. I grew up in a church and I can recite scripture, prayers and I know a handful of hymns by heart. I am interested in the history of Christianity and other religions and scripture and the Bible are intriguing to me. But I have problems with organized religion in general – problems that I won’t go into for various reasons…mostly because, try as I might, I can’t put them into words that would make sense to anyone but myself.
What I took away from this funeral is that there is more than this life. But this was a group of people who knew this already and seemed to have a faith and an understanding of God’s love that spanned generations and generations. I love the idea that it doesn’t matter what your faith looks like, how you come to your faith, or how it comes to you. You don’t put a suit and tie or a flashy dress on your faith to dress it up every Sunday so people might think you are someone you are not. The lesson today was that death is the thing we all share in life – the common denominator, and there is no time like the present to consider this notion. The woman I attended the service with lost her husband very suddenly and tragically several years ago and is raising her two sons by herself. I admire and respect her more than just about anyone I know, and after I got home, I began thinking about how she and I must have heard the same words at the funeral very differently today. It made me think about how our individual experiences shape faith more than just about anything else.
Probably the best part of the service (I know that sounds crass, but there really was a best part to this funeral) was the little old lady sitting several rows up from us – whom we later learned was the sister of the deceased. This woman was VOCAL and praised the Lord every chance she got. At one point, the minister was quoting a verse from Matthew and he paused, and she finished the verse for him! It was such a moment for me – that this little tiny thing KNEW the exact verse, and that she stepped up to finish the scripture for the minister. It was amazing and I’m glad I went today, it was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget.