W E L C O M E . . . to the blog site of ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH of Rochester
We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified and...
you will be blessed by your time spent with us.

Friday, September 04, 2009

When a friend dies: Grief + responsibility

A friend of mine -- a former co-worker -- died this week. She'd battled lung cancer for a year and a half, successfully, as it turned out, but there were a host of other health complications that dealt her a war on too many fronts. She was 63.

My friend was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church but lived a resolutely secular life. A slot machine was present at the funeral parlor to celebrate her favorite pastime of casino gambling. She always wore a diamond ring on every finger, loved to buy clothes (being a size zero, everything looked great on her), had a colorful vocabulary and was quick with a salty joke.

We all loved her.

While fighting her health war, she refused to take time to plan a funeral (that would be giving in) but did say she'd feel like a hypocrite having a service in a church. Not that she didn't believe in God, just that she wasn't much of a churchgoer during her life.

In retrospect, what strikes me is that believers have a responsibility toward their unbelieving friends, and that the Lord will provide a way for each of us to share the Gospel with sensitivity and grace.

I am very thankful for another funeral service earlier this year (the father of another co-worker) where my friend was present. This was a believer's funeral and the pastor kindly but very clearly shared the Gospel message of salvation. On the way to our cars, my friend said several times how much she liked the message and the pastor. Later on, when she was ill, she said that she prayed but she preferred to do that by herself. When I was by her bedside for what later turned out to be the last time, her daughter was intent on keeping things upbeat, so I wasn't really able to say all I wanted to say.

I trust in her baptism, her willing hearing of the Gospel, and her renewed prayer life as evidence of her reconciliation with the Lord at the end of her life. But my story doesn't end there. On the day of my friend's funeral, her daughter asked if any of us wanted to say anything during the service. Everyone else said no, at which time I realized the Lord was offering me a responsibility to take.

Now, in half a century of living I have NEVER spoken at a funeral. And now I'd said yes, with virtually no time to prepare. A priest was present to conduct a short mass. He used all the scriptures I'd had in mind, except for one. So when it came my time to talk, I talked about how my friend enjoyed life as much as anyone I've ever known. That enjoyment is different from love. Love is sometimes enjoyable and other times an act of will that partakes of duty, but enjoyment itself is akin to thankfulness and that our friend went through every day enjoying every scrap of it: having an attitude of constant thanksgiving.

"Life here is short," I said, "but Life itself is very long. And we have a promise, which is that when we are absent from the body we are present -- immediately -- with the Lord, where every question of life that has ever troubled us will be answered." I finished by saying I knew our friend was enjoying this in the same way we all saw her enjoy her life here.

It wasn't the Four Spiritual Laws, but it was true both to my friend and to the word of God, and was as good as it was going to get with 20 minutes' prep time. The experience was difficult -- like tightrope balancing. How to tell the truth without placing one's self in the position of judge. Afterwards, everyone thanked me so I guess I did OK. Have you been in this postion? How did you handle it? I'm sure it's coming to all of us eventually, but I hope it doesn't come to me again, at least for awhile.

No comments:

Post a Comment