Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: JOIE DE VIVRE (delight in being alive) (08/18/16)
TITLE: The Funeral Party
By Dave Walker
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The story started six months before with the first tragedy in Liz’s life. We’d warned her husband, Jamie that his shop was in a dangerous area. He just shrugged, the corners of his mouth disappeared down into his black beard and he looked at us with those soft brown eyes, saying, “Vot can you do? A man must make a living.”
Even though we’d warned him, we were still shocked when we heard he’d been attacked as he was closing up. They needn’t have killed him. The money was there for the taking.
Poor Liz. She was like a lost little bird, trying to eke out a living by keeping the shop going. She only had Peter to help her. He was a devoted son and became her only reason to live. She moved the shop to a safer place, but the new premises needed a lot of work and what with her being so small and delicate, it was really too much for her. Peter worked hard helping his mamma restore the place – except on Shabbat, of course – and he did well for a sixteen year old.
One day Peter was fixing the roof and Liz was inside the shop. Suddenly she heard a scrabbling sound and a loud cry. She rushed outside in time to see Peter falling from the scaffolding. He fell right at her feet. She cradled his broken body in her arms. He winced and tried to say something, but blood gurgled from his mouth and then he closed his eyes, grew limp and stopped breathing – right in his mamma’s arms. I’ve never seen anyone so hysterical, as her whole world quaked around her and swallowed her into a chasm of desolation.
Once the wailing stopped, Liz became a silent half-person drifting from place to place without eating or speaking. At the funeral procession she stumbled blindly along beside the coffin with the dust marking the tear streaks down her cheeks.
Then I’m walking beside Liz, supporting her. Suddenly, I look up and there’s a man walking towards us. He stops us and says, “Put down the coffin.” Who is this man who’s interrupting Liz’s mourning? Anger rises in me and I’m ready to push him out of the way, but the men with him take me aside.
“Give him a free hand. He knows what he’s doing.”
As put down the coffin, he looks at Liz with love light in his eyes and says, “Don’t be sad.”
Don’t be sad? She’s just lost her only son!
Then He gives the command “Open the coffin.” He speaks with such sureness that we do what he says, though I’ve no idea why he wants to see poor Peter, so broken from his fall. He looks at Peter and calls his name. “Young man! Open your eyes.”
That is when Peter sits up, looking dazed, with not a sign of injury on him. He rubs his eyes and looks at his mamma, who gives a cry and starts sobbing uncontrollably. I’m too terrified to comfort her. We’re all standing stock still, looking at Peter. Jesus lays a hand on Liz’s shoulder and she stops sobbing. He smiles at her and then at us and that changes everything. Peter jumps out of the coffin, runs to his mamma and they start dancing. All the people of Nain who have come to mourn with Liz dance too. The singing and partying goes on and on, while Jesus smiles broadly with tangible pleasure.
There is a French expression joie de vivre whose literal translation is delight of living. Never was it more fitting than at the funeral that Jesus turned into a celebration of life restored.
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