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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rite of Passage

This morning I attended the funeral of my cousin, Jane, who was about three years my senior. All of my aunts and uncles are gone except one and now my cousins are going. Since both of my parents were at the end of their families, most of my 96 cousins are a good bit older than I am. So far, the ones who died were the older ones but either the age is coming down or mine is going up. This was a cousin I spent more time with and is the closest to my age of any cousin that has died.
Jane's funeral included a lot of singing which I like. She asked for something I have never seen before at a funeral---a children's meeting. We sang "Jesus Loves Me" (which is the Gospel in a nutshell) and then one of my cousins told a story and talked to Jane's 27 grandchildren. It was a very nice touch and something they will probably remember.
I also really liked Jane's bi-fold memorial folder. It is much more family friendly, featuring a picture from their wedding 45 years ago and the family today as well as the addresses of each of her children. Jane was a people person and both of these things fit her personality.
Jane had cancer and knew her time was coming so she had planned most of her own service. That made me think about what I would want. I already knew I would want lots of singing. I would want the final viewing before the service, not afterward the way it was today. And I would not want the service to focus on me and the things I have done in life. I try to avoid being recognized (although my name often betrays me) and do not want my funeral to be all about me. All I am or ever hope to be is because of the One who died for me. I want the Lord Jesus to be the center of attention and the One who is praised. People who never otherwise go to church will attend a funeral and we should present the Gospel to them when we have the opportunity.
A funeral is a rite of passage for the benefit of the living rather than the dead. It is a gentle way to say good-by to those we love. Jane was in our cousin's quilting circle and we will miss her the next time we gather around a quilt. She will not be there but I think we will remember the message she chose to give us today from 3 John 1:14. "But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee."

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