Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)
TITLE: The Different Funeral
By Sandra Fischer
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Everything about her funeral was different. That was how Marilee wanted it. No flowers – except for one large sunflower placed at the head of the casket. No open casket – just a favorite picture of her and son, Josh, placed on top of the simple coffin. Instead of the typical folded program with information about the deceased, each person was given a small imprinted card with only eight words – “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
The organ sat silent, its usual morose strains overruled by Marilee’s request to play CD’s with her favorites, from “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” to “I’ll Fly Away”. I smiled as I dabbed my eyes. She probably was dancing down those golden streets. Even as she lay lifeless, her refusal to bend to the dictates of the culture was still alive. She had loved surprises, whether they were ones she contrived or whether they were on her. I half expected something unusual to happen. And it did.
Most of the mourners were seated when a young man slid into the vacant seat next to me. “Almost didn’t make it.”
“You’re fine. Just in time.” I didn’t recognize him.
“How did you know her?” He nodded toward the casket.
“We were close friends. And you?”
“I was a friend of her son’s.” His voice shook. “I thought I should come because of him.”
I glanced at the picture of her and Josh on top of the casket and at Josh’s bowed head three rows ahead. “Yes, she loved him very much.” Again the tears came as I thought of all the challenges she had met head-on as a single mother.
“I can’t believe it,” the young man sniffed. “Both gone now.”
Both gone? The wheels turned in my head, but didn’t click into full gear. Before any sense could register, Pastor Martin was at the podium praying.
At the end of the prayer, he began the eulogy. “We come today to celebrate a special life. A life devoted to God. A life of love for God and others. A life of a self-less servant seeking and doing the will of God. A life of obedience to the call and purpose of God – obedience even unto death. The life we come to celebrate today is the life of Jesus Christ, who was Marilee’s LORD and Savior and without whom we would have nothing to celebrate, as her death would mean eternal death. Because of God’s grace to Marilee and to all who have believed in Jesus for salvation, we know she is standing tall in heaven today. And, so we celebrate Christ and her life in Him.”
My neighbor leaned close to my ear. “Why does he keep calling her ‘Marilee’?”
“That’s her name.” I whispered, trying to hear what Pastor Martin was saying.
“Her name is Marilyn. Is Marilee a nickname?”
Heads in front of us were turning now. “No,” I squirmed
I turned to look into a set of widened eyes and reddened cheeks. He mouthed the next question – “Her last name?”
I quickly took a pen from my purse and wrote “Hamilton” on the back of the verse card and showed it to him.
He jumped to his feet, chin falling to his chest and gasped, “Oh, my, Gah. . .” His hand smacked his mouth, stifling the ending “d”. Pastor Martin stopped and stared, adjusting his glasses and shuffling his notes.
All eyes were in our direction, ears attuned to the man’s repeated “oh, dear, oh, dear”. I rose and put my arm around his shoulder. “It’s o.k., it’s o.k. I’ll walk out with you.” I nodded at Pastor Martin as if I knew what was happening.
“Let us pray,” he said. And I did, as I escorted the shocked man out.
By the time we reached the lobby, I remembered having seen cars at another funeral home a few blocks away. My new friend kept muttering about the mistake. As he headed for the door, I tried to reassure him.
“Let me just say, had you known Marilee, you would also know she would have been delighted to have you come to her celebration. Someday, maybe you’ll be able to look back on this with a lighter heart.”
When I returned to the service, everyone was singing “When We All Get To Heaven”. I smiled as I considered Marilee’s sendoff. She was probably smiling, too. It was a different funeral, right down to the surprise guest..
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