I took my wife’s elbow in my right hand and turned back to aim the keyfob at the truck. The sound of the horn let me know that the doors were locked. I placed my left arm around her waist, and we steadied each other as we walked through the slush to the walkway. We had attended many funerals in our 51 years of marriage, but this was to be the hardest of all. I had known Terry since I was 13, when I defended him against some boys picking on him. He was always a bit on the small side.
He moved away from the town where we grew up over 50 years ago, leaving his past life behind. It was by chance that we ended up in the same town. Once he took the position as music minister at the Second Baptist Church, it was a no-brainer for us to begin attending there. As luck would have it, we loved the lead pastor there as well. Terry’s commitment and faithfulness in his Christian walk drew people to him.
We entered the double doors and stomped our feet on the mat to rid our boots of as much sand and slush as we could. The third entry on the right was the “Solace Room.” I began to sign our names to the register when I heard my wife say, “Oh, dear, they all know.” I glanced away from the book to survey the room and noticed many of the people staring back at me. I squeezed my wife’s hand and said, “Just ignore them, honey, it’s between Terry and God, it always was.” I finished signing our names and we walked up the center aisle to the casket.
As I looked down at my friend, my tears flowed freely. He looked even smaller than his five foot four inches laid out like this. Jamie had chosen the right clothes for him. He told me that he always felt stronger in the gray suit and the maroon striped tie; he said it accented his salt-and pepper hair and beard. I wiped my face with the handkerchief my wife handed to me and tried to stop the heaving of my shoulders as I sobbed. I felt a tap on my back. I turned and leaned down to hug Terry’s wife of 48 years to my chest. At only five feet tall, she was a tiny wisp of a woman. “They’re all talking about him,” she sobbed into my ear.
“Shhh, Jamie, it doesn’t matter. God knows Terry, God created him and he is now in Jesus’ bosom. Don’t worry about what they say now. They finally know what God has known all along. How did they find out anyway?”
“The usual telephone game, Chuck, someone preparing his body told someone who told someone…..”
I heard a familiar voice behind me. “Chuck, did you know?”
“Don’t be so juvenile, Jeff. I had known him since the eighth grade, of course I knew.”
“How could you keep that to yourself? You know that it’s against the Bible.”
“I know no such thing, and neither do you. It was none of my business to share that information with anyone else. Terry made his peace with God and was one of the strongest Christian men you knew, how dare you stand there and pass judgment on him!”
Jeff walked away shaking his head in amazement.
Jamie looked back at me and asked. “Are you still speaking the eulogy, Chuck?”
“Without a doubt. I loved him as my brother.”
“Shhh… Shhhh…” Chuck said as he raised his hand and readied to address the room.
“Terry was my closest friend, I knew him in childhood, I was his best man and he was mine, I watched him as he was baptized, I watched him grow into the finest Christian man I have ever known. At 75 years old, I will never have another friend like him before I see him in Heaven.” There was an audible gasp denoting disbelief from the assemblage.
“You all respected him and loved him, welcomed him into your homes and lives. Now you know his secret. He served God well. It doesn’t change who he was.
“In closing, I will read his favorite verse: Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (KJV)
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