John Died

I didn't think I'd be experiencing anymore "firsts", by age 53, but today's funeral was the first I'd ever attended in a funeral home. The service was for the 93 year old father of a friend. John, the deceased, died at home after a night out dancing, an activity he enjoyed four nights a week.

I was clearly one of the youngest sitting in the chapel, which was filled to capacity, with John's fellow-Masons and friends. Initially I found myself waiting for the family to file in, as I was accustomed to seeing at church funerals. Only later did I become aware that they were seated behind the thin curtain which separated the "slumbering room" from the chapel. It reminded me of "Now we see through a glass darkly. . ." and evoked questions concerning to whom and from what the curtain was offering protection.

While listening to the piped-in music, my eyes scanned the assemblage. Most frail, with snowy hair and hearing-aids, dowagers' humps and canes in abundance, and one with noticeable palsy. "Rock of Ages", "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us", "Amazing Grace"... nostalgic hymns from childhood, before modern churches found their questionable theology and sexist language†unacceptable. Interesting how they are resurrected again at those sober moments when floundering philosophies fail to provide needed anchors.

A brother Mason admonished those present that they must let go of any bad feelings, unforgiveness, or other unfinished business that they may have had with the deceased. Now was the time to remember and speak only of his goodness. If anything had not been resolved by now, it could not be, except by forgiving it. Perhaps a truth that should be extended to the living.

As the tenor sang "You'll Never Walk Alone", I watched the very slight, elderly gentleman sitting, rather tenuously, in front of me. I surmised that his life's companion had already passed on. He had arrived and sat alone. "When you walk through the storm, keep your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark. . . Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,

And you'll never walk alone". One tender tear slid down his wrinkled cheek. But there were no signs of anguished grief as one often sees on younger brows, not yet reconciled with life and death's inevitabilities.

I thought of the frenzied dancing of youth compared with the gentle movements of those who have lived life. This was followed by the irreverent fantasy of John, lying there today, who if he could hear the organ music, might want to dance a last waltz to "Rock of Ages" which, appropriately, is in 3/4 time.

Everything moved slower as we arose to walk across the front of the chapel where the casket lay. Extra time was given to those who had to manage walkers or canes. People graciously offered an arm to support those less steady or unsure of sight. There was no rush. Few had to return to work. No need to hurry. There would be time.

I left feeling younger and older for having been there.