The first, Artie, said, “I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man.” The second, Eugene, commented, “I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who make a huge difference in people’s lives.” The third, Al, said, “I’d like them to say, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”
I share this humorous story in light of what happened recently at my father-in-law’s funeral. Present and accounted for were four of my seven young grandsons. And among these was the one I lovingly refer to as “The Inquisitor”. He is all of three years old, and has, as they say, an inquiring mind.
Ensconced in my wife’s lap on the front row while I delivered the eulogy, he had much to say. Only rather than statements, he produced a plethora of questions, and these in staccato format… “Why is Papaw in that box? Who put him there?” “Why is he asleep?” “Why does he have a flag?” “Why are there flowers?” “Why is Granddaddy talking?”
To be sure, once “The Inquisitor” is older, he will likely begin to sort all these things out and make sense of them. In the meantime, I can offer him some helpful insights…
1. “Why is Papaw in that box? Who put him there?” Since time immemorial, people have recognized that once the spirit has departed, the physical body is uninhabited. We practice burial of the body because the Bible affirms (in Genesis 3:19) that “for (from) dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return”.
2. “Why is Papaw asleep?” Papaw is asleep because the Bible repeatedly affirms (cf. Acts 7:20; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16) that sleep is a euphemism for the mortal remains of deceased believers as they await the coming resurrection of the dead in the final days.
3. “Why does Papaw have a flag?” He has a flag draped upon his coffin because he proudly served his country when he was a younger man. Specifically, he served in the U. S. Army with distinction before being honorably discharged, and was decorated with several medals in the process.
5. “Why are there flowers?” Because people feel compelled to express their sympathy to the family, and have historically chosen to give flowers as a symbol of the beauty of life in the midst of death. After all, flowers bloom at the end of the darkness of wintertime and show forth their glory in the springtime, reminding us that “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning”, as life ultimately wins out over death!
6. “Why is Granddaddy talking?” I was talking because it is right and fitting that we gather and extol our loved ones in their passing. An ancient Jewish sage once said: “Let us now gather and praise great men, and our fathers that begat us.” I was attempting to do that very thing, both to honor Papaw, and to glorify His Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Kudos to my little grandson for his insightful questions! Kudos as well to the man who lived his life in such a fashion that his passing prompted those very questions in the mind of his great grandson! For the questions prompted are essential to who he was as a person. And their answers are essential to the legacy and influence he left behind.
I thank God for the man my father-in-law was. I also thank God for the man that his great-grandson will one day become! May the latter, in his time, go on to accomplish and inspire just as much, if not more, as the former did in his time!
If he does, then he too will one day intrigue and inspire his own descendants, even as he himself was once intrigued and inspired by his forebears. No doubt, this is just as God intends!
https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/66830.pdf; p. 73.