The news cycle is loud, but we need to hear those who can’t shout
Many years ago, I attended two funerals within 10 months, both for young men I didn’t know. I went for their mothers’ sakes. One was a suicide, and the pastor did his best to hang his eulogy on the scattered pegs of hope the boy left behind. By the grace of God, there were some. The other was a motorcycle accident.
This young man—I’ll call him Jason—was not reckless or negligent. According to his obituary, the truck he ran into “failed to yield.”
Sudden, untimely death and failure to yield—most of us run up against it sooner or later, at least once in a lifetime. When Jason drove his bike into the pickup, he ran his family into a solid wall of grief. Stunned at first: This can’t be happening. Then the raging pain, the blackness, the feeling around desperately for any crack in the wall, but it will not yield.
When Jason drove his bike into the pickup, he ran his family into a solid wall of grief.
On the day of the funeral Jason’s immediate family must have been exhausted, but they were very much in charge. First, they stood outside the doors of the chapel greeting people. Normally the funeral director does that, as the family is sequestered with their loved one. But besides the hearse, there was no evidence of standard “funeral arrangements”; even the coffin (not casket) was the plain pine box many of us say we want but seldom get. There was no piped-in music, just a couple of live songs. There was no pastor, because Jason’s father pastored his own family.
Jason’s oldest brother read the obituary and added some personal comments; his only sister spoke on “My Brother’s Life.” Typically, the subject of a funeral is presented as someone you wish you’d known, or should have known better. Jason was no exception: He was fun, outgoing, uncomplicated, with a gift of happiness. If he had to go so young, he probably went the best way: quickly.
Still, his oldest brother admitted it didn’t seem fair. God gave him two brothers as a gift: Why take one away so soon? A simple equation rates a simple evaluation—it’s not fair. They had their memories, and some of them made us laugh. Laughter is not uncommon at funerals, especially when the death observed is neither a crime nor a suicide but an act of God. Such occasions almost demand a dash of comic relief.
But they end up against the hard unyielding fact. It happened, and there’s no way around it. Most of us in the pews would go our way shortly after and remember the family in our prayers for a few weeks, if that. Those closest to Jason would slam against that wall frequently in days to come. Less so as the weeks stretched to years, but it would stand as long as they lived, along with that stubborn failure to yield. Except for one thing. One vital, necessary, saving grace.
Jason’s father claimed it. In his talk he rambled a bit, even during the “prepared remarks” written on notecards. He was a part-time preacher, and his preachy use of emphasis and Bible-thumping emerged here and there. But mainly he was a hurting father, who pulled his hurt and hope together at the end with a wrenching prayer. Speaking frankly as father to Father, acknowledging their common grief, claiming the perfection of Christ as his own and the inheritance of Christ as his promise, he concluded with a ringing request that sounded like a demand, echoing through the chapel: “Resurrect my son!”
The pain and the triumph—is there anything like it? The baby in the manger and the baby of the family, both working their way into human history, gathering personhood, generating memories, exerting their will, accelerating their years, intensifying their mission, whether deliberately in Jesus’ case or much less so in Jason’s. Speeding through life, faster and faster; until the incarnate Word picks up the carnal son and hurls him at the wall—and it yields.
Resurrect my son!
“And He will,” Jason’s father concluded quietly, with all confidence.