BODY AND SOUL
I trembled as my foot stepped over the threshold of the funeral home. The pen moved smoothly across the guest book as I signed it. My eyes grazed the crowd. Many cousins, aunts and uncles milled about as they moved toward seats. I sat next to cousins my age.
The preacher gave a few kindly descriptions of my uncle. “Fred was a successful business man…..”
Yet at age 48 he was dead. My mind still grappled with the finality of his life. The finality of life, of my life.
Then people rose to go to their cars. I lingered so I could follow close to Aunt Lucy – she had always been kind to me. Maybe I could speak to her. Her two sons were on either side of her. She sobbed then turned to the oldest son, “Promise me he is not in hell.” The son didn’t respond. She nearly yelled, “Promise me!”
“Ma, Dad’s gone. He’s at rest.”
I detected the neutral reply. The son couldn’t be positive, that is if he remembered what I remembered. Uncle Fred’s lustful eyes, foul mouth, and course manner made me keep at a distance from him. Fred seemed to be after all he could get without giving. Not a good memory of my uncle.
As I drove to the cemetery on the hill I again found my mind speaking to me about the end. My end. My demise. My funeral. I shook my head wanting to dispel gloomy thoughts but something deep in me prodded: are you ready?
Then words from my childhood streamed through my mind.
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Is that how I got the idea that a person has a body and soul? That the body is inhabited by the soul? Or, or is it spirit? Is that why Aunt Lucy needed to know what happened to the part of Uncle Fred that didn’t go into the ground?
Oh, must I think these thoughts? Stop!
I parked in the grass and walked to the tent shading the casket. Immediate family sat in chairs at the grave site. The rest of us stood around. My aunt cried into a handkerchief as he sons hugged her.
The preacher cleared his throat. “… there is a season for every activity under heaven: [Ecclesiastes 3:1]…. For those who want eternal life John 3:16 tells us, For God so loved the world – so loved you, Fred’s family – that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
I never thought about a life after death, an eternal life. I need to find out about it. Something in me -- maybe it’s my soul -- needs more. But more of what? Can a soul be fed? If it can be fed, can it also be starved? Hmmm.
Slowly friends and family disappeared. Once everyone left the preacher’s side I walked up to him. “Say, I, ah, I haven’t given much thought to this thing called the soul. Not until Uncle Fred died.” I swallowed hard and looked at the nearby tombstone. “Ah, how do I – you know – how do I find out this stuff?” Panic was about to twist my thoughts. “I, I really want to be ready to die.”
To my amazement, the preacher smiled warmly at me. “I have a few minutes now. Do you have to rush off?”
He told me what Peter said in Acts 2:38: repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We talked about salvation and I accepted Christ as my savior. Then he told me about a Bible study on Tuesday nights for single women and a weekly luncheon on Wednesday with a speaker teaching on spiritual matters. The card he put in my hand had the address of a church.
As I drove down the hill toward town, I acknowledged the parts of me – at least two. One will go to a grave, but the other – my soul – will stand before the Lord God Almighty to be judged when I die. I plan to be ready.
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