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The Funeral that Birthed New Life

November 3, 2014

It was early September of 2012. As the late morning sunlight cast across my parents’ living room floor, I crawled off the sofa and onto my knees. Bowing into the carpet with forehead in my palms, an overwhelmed and burdened request escaped my lips:

Lord, just take her. Take her today. Why is she still here? Will You please end this pain and suffering?

My great-aunt Pat had been struggling for several years with a rare lung disease that had been gradually worsening. Her last days were spent in bed, living alone and nearly 45 minutes away. My dad called every day to check on her and in the event she didn’t answer the phone after several attempts, a drive was made. Stubborn as she was, she insisted on mostly caring for herself and a doctor visit was a rarity. Her coughing fits seemed to manifest excruciation in my own lungs just by the sound of them, and from my front row seat to this agony I questioned and questioned what purpose God had in all this.

Surely one of the eye-sores of evolutionary theory is the ever persistence of this question: Why?

The fundamentals of Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and How? are scientific and measurable. Why? is the abrasive outlier. Why? questions purpose. We may know who did something, but why did they do it? We may know where it happened, but why there? We may know when it happened, but why then? We may know how it happened, but why that way? Why? is a stand alone question. It transcends the other five, hovering above and pleading for something higher than the facts. Higher than the measurements and the calculations. Higher than the logic. It begs for reason and it calls out to something deeper within us than the mechanics of life.

I was a professional at this question from the time I could pronounce it. As much as everyone wanted me to shut up about it after the third and fourth time, I wanted everyone to get smart and start asking it as often as I did.

Why??!?

Why are we here?! Why do bad things happen!? Why do the sweet and gentle elderly sometimes suffer long and horrible deaths? Where is the purpose in this and where is God’s glory in the prolonging of a life lacking visible quality?

I pleaded with God to take her to be with Him that day. I prayed, Lord, if she is ready to be with You, what good is it keeping her here if she will only be in pain? Please, I am asking You: unless there is a greater purpose to be found in the close future, please take her today. Please, God, either heal her completely, or take her home.

The day ended and another day came, and my aunt Pat was still with us. A resolution of peace settled in my heart to trust that God was still honoring my prayer–that there was a greater purpose to be found in more days of her life. Purpose beyond what I could see with my eyes.

Nearly a month passed before Aunt Pat, at age 72, breathed her last on September 30, 2012. The ground beneath the trees screamed of beautiful death as the early October reminded these funeral-goers that even this does not end in death. For as I was about to witness, even this death was the birthplace of many new beginnings.

The morning of October 3, 2012, I, with a few family members, played and sang some hymns for an hour or two before the funeral began. As we came to a stopping point nearing the start of the service, I left my keyboard and headed into the funeral home’s small kitchen area to get a cup of coffee. While stirring in some sweetener and wiping up a few stray drops, my mom comes up beside me and with a twinkle in her eyes she says, “Christie, you have to meet this couple over here. They are traveling on horseback across the country doing mission work.”

I sort of stopped in my tracks and looked at her incredulously. “What? Are you serious? On horseback?”

Glancing over at the other side of the room I saw a man and woman in blue jeans and cowboy boots enjoying their coffee and carrying on conversation with one or two others. I walk over and am introduced and I just stood wide-eyed and jaw-dropped as they briefly described what they were doing. The service was nearly starting and I said, “Okay, I have to talk with you after. I mean, I have to.” They both gave a huge grin and agreed.

Immediately following the funeral was a luncheon for everyone at a nearby restaurant, and I sat with Tim and Lynn as they told story after story after story of dumbfounding miracles and utterly perplexing provision that they had witnessed thus far on their journey. Their stories stirred up a simmering fire within me and gave life to a struggling hope I had been waiting on for some time. I had died many deaths that year in the form of friendships, a job, and relocation. To see two people so passionate, so obedient, so willing to say Yes to the God so many of us only give one hour of our week to–this was a stark interruption to my own personal funeral procession.

These two were in town for their son’s wedding in Indianapolis on the 28th, two days before Aunt Pat passed away. They were at her funeral because as it turns out, Tim is my fourth cousin, so his dad was Aunt Pat’s first cousin. They decided to go with his parents to her funeral in the morning before they left town that afternoon to head back out on the road on horseback.

As I look back on this series of events those few months of 2012, I am utterly humbled by the hand of God in the precision of His timing.

As I lay bowed down on that living room floor, my prayer for purpose in Aunt Pat’s death was heard. I begged the Lord to take her that day, but had He honored that prayer, the entire course of my life might have been different. I may have never crossed paths with these two. (I mean, come on… how many of us know our fourth cousins? Really?)

There are countless more purposes in the divine timing of Aunt Pat’s passing. I could never begin to claim that my life is the only one affected or included in His purposes that day. But an undeniable truth here is that no matter how seemingly insignificant, there is no such thing as coincidence.

Even when it seems He is not answering your prayers, He is.
Even when it seems someone is suffering in vain, they aren’t.
Even when it seems like the little things don’t matter, they do.

Had my Aunt Pat gone to heaven a day sooner or a day later, I most likely would be in a very different place doing very different things.

That lunch conversation was interspersed with Tim and Lynn taking turns saying, “You really should come ride with us.” But the Lord knew the time was not yet. And two years later, here we are.

Sometimes funerals are birthplaces for new life.

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply Anita Briggs November 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

    So glad to hear how God is working in your life. Love your writings. Keep living for Christ and let him direct your path. Love and prayers for you.

  • Avatar
    Reply Mike Smith November 20, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Never heard that part of the story. Great stuff

    1 Corinthians 13:12
    For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known

    I know this verse speaks specifically to our impending adoption/glorification, but it has implications now regarding our perspective. We see dimly, He sees clearly. We have limited knowledge, He has infinite knowledge and wisdom (the ability to use knowledge correctly, justly, and for His glory).

    Also thought of this verse:
    Matthew 6:8
    …for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

    I love how God’s plan comes together like a symphony: each individual part/tempo sounds a little goofy on its own…..but when joined together they sound out the song of His majesty!

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