Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)
TITLE: The Spirit Within
By Virgil Youngblood
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The church secretary telephoned asking for help. The pastor was out of town and an elderly man in a local care home had just passed away. Since I was Chairman of our Deacon body, she wanted me to fill in for the pastor and go to the care home. I agreed and afterwards would jokingly tell the pastor, “You owe me.”
When I arrived the administrator ushered me into a conference room. She soon returned with an assistant, each pushing an elderly lady in a wheel chair. After parking the chairs, they left closing the door behind them on a bedlam of sound erupting from these women.
Now, I’m not one to shout or point fingers but it became necessary. Eventually, I learned they were residents in the care home, one the wife of the deceased, the other his ex-wife.
The dearly departed was down the hall, awaiting transport to the funeral home. These bitter women, each claiming authority to determine funeral arrangements, burial location and heir rights, commenced a verbal war. If they had arrived on canes instead of wheelchairs, an Olympic fencing match would have transpired. The hatred and animosity between these two were palpable. They did not agree on anything.
Standing between them, shouting, I sent them to their rooms telling them the pastor would be in touch the following day. God bless pastors. The problems of life can make you bitter or better. These two were backing up for a running start and better wasn’t on the horizon yet. Bitterness prevailed.
Quite the opposite experience occurred when another man died. He was to be buried in a small country cemetery. A military rifle team would fire a salute at the gravesite and a bugler would sound Taps. This solemn and dignified farewell is especially meaningful to a veteran’s family and other veterans.
The funeral director, a good friend, had the reputation of going the extra mile to make each service as comforting to the family as possible. On this day, the procession left the church and wound its way down a busy city street flanked by sidewalks full of people. Folks from every walk of life seemed to flash by. Most paused or in one way or another indicated respect for the caravan of mourners.
Except one. Someone dressed in a colorful clown suit stepped off the curb and boldly waved a sign from side to side at the passing hearse. The sign said “Rent Free Apartments.” Go figure. On the way to heaven a clown stood by the side of the road. It happens all the time, though usually not so visible.
Arriving at the cemetery, the casket was gently placed on the bier. The floral arrangements were being carefully positioned when the military officer beckoned the funeral director aside. There was a problem. They had arrived early. Every time the bugler practiced playing Taps, a donkey in a brushy pasture adjoining the cemetery went to braying. They had thrown rocks at him and done everything they could to drive him off. “But,” he warned, “that donkey is still around.”
Sure enough, Taps was played accompanied by a donkey serenade. To call it a dignified service would stretch charitable to the limits.
When the service ended, the family gathered immediately around the funeral director. To my friend’s great relief the daughter said, “I couldn’t believe the clown and the jackass. Daddy would have loved it.”
Some people have sweet spirits.
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