I didn’t know Randolph. Not really.
He and his wife sat across the table from my wife and me at a banquet five or ten years ago, and he entertained us with talk about his train. That’s what my wife tells me, anyhow. I honestly don’t remember.
Randolph died last week, and his funeral was on Saturday. I say “funeral” because that’s the traditional word for it, but the family chose to call it a celebration of life. I like that.
I suppose most funerals include eulogies, even if the deceased was highly unpopular. But Randolph appears to have been quite an outstanding man. One who was highly regarded. And he would have been the first one to credit God with helping him be the kind of man so many people admired and looked up to.
Not every part of a “celebration of life” is overtly joyous, of course, but the pictures projected on the screen for the first portion of the service, the eulogy, the extremely upbeat choir anthem “Jerusalem,” and the congregational singing of the joyous hymn “Victory in Jesus” all worked together to make Randolph’s service a positive event.
That’s not unusual for a Christian funeral. We believe the deceased is already in Heaven enjoying fellowship with his Lord and Savior. The body–in Randolph’s case, he had already been buried–is simply an empty shell. Although even the most devout of Christians will miss their friend and loved one, there’s nothing to grieve about. Not for his sake, anyhow.
Like you, I have no idea how much time I have left. At seventy, I know I’m closer to my earthly death than I was at sixty-nine. I hope and pray that God will continue to bless my earthly existence with meaning and significance. And that when I go, my service will be a time of celebration.
I’ve already made a video of me doing one of my original songs, “What Will You Leave Behind?” I want that to be played at my Celebration of Life. But that’s not a fun song. Maybe have them show a Youtube video of Chi Coltrane singing “Go Like Elijah.” (Watch it here.)
[NOTE: What timing! I wrote most of this Sunday afternoon. Sunday night I experienced severe chest and abdominal pains that sent me to the ER. My heart was fine. The doctor there thought it was reflux. I went to my PCP on Monday. He was more inclined to think it might be an intestinal bug. After I got home, his office called to say he wanted me to have an ultrasound–maybe gall bladder problems. As of the time I’m writing this, I’m scheduled for that this afternoon. I don’t know whether I’ll have results back soon enough to give you an update before posting this. But no matter what the problem proves to be, it’s been a very timely reminder that my body will continue to deteriorate. And I’m thankful for God’s comforting company every step of the way.]
What about you? What’s your view of funerals? Have you experienced the difference between a Christian Celebration of Life service and one that’s not? How about leaving a comment.
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