Friday, October 27, 2017

Eulogizing a Life Well Lived

It takes a funeral to get an endless supply of family pictures.

Sweet Great Uncle Bud

Caleb plopped into my car after a full day at school.  He immediately flipped on his phone and fiddled with the screen.

"How was the funeral?" he asked in a polite, distracted manner without looking up from his device (he wasn't able to attend due to a full load of Friday tests).

"It was great," I gushed.

My response caught his attention.  It was like the record skipped.  He lifted his eyes off his phone and eyed me with suspicion.

"Isn't that an oxymoron,?" he questioned.  "A funeral cannot be great." 

But it can.  It did.  It was.

My Great Uncle Bud passed away on Sunday.  He reached the tender age of 98 in impeccable health and with complete clarity of mind.   He lived independently, even driving up until the end.  His demeanor never changed; he was lovable, kind, and faith-filled up until he took his last breath.

Eulogizing Uncle Bud was easy.  He lived a life fit to be eulogized well.  The words that were spoken about this joy-filled, small town man were abundantly glowing.  He faithfully worked for Diamond Chain for 43 years.  He loved and outlived two wives.  He served our country in World War II while stationed in the Pacific.  He served neighbors, family, community, and church members with complete abandon.  

Near the end of the service, an elderly man walked up to the microphone.  He apologized for his raspy, well-used voice and joked about God limiting his words. But his scratchy delivery didn't silence the story he wanted to tell.

Once upon a time, he was Bud's neighbor.  He spoke about Bud wandering into his yard and inviting him to church.  But this man was too busy, or wanted to be too busy, to go to church.  He told Bud that he had yard work, mowing, and every other chore under the sun that prohibited him from walking through the sanctuary door.  Bud responded to the list of excuses, "Well, when you're not busy."

This man eventually caved to Bud's repeated invitations and accompanied him to a Billy Graham crusade.  At that crusade, this man accepted Jesus.

That story enough brought chills to my spine.

But there was more.

The man plugged into Bible studies and church programs, all with the encouragement and support of my Great Uncle Bud.  As the man grew in his faith, Bud suggested he should be a pastor.

And he did.

This man they call pastor didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

I could have sat in that stained-glass church and listened to these stories forever.  But within minutes of the pastor's last word, we were following a line of cars to the cemetery.  A group of family members and close friends huddled under a green tent, trying desperately to get shelter from the pounding rain and chilly wind gusts.

Around the casket stood two men in uniform.  They held an American flag and paid their respects to Bud.  Outside the tent,  a brigade of World War II veterans formed a line between the grave stones.  At the appropriate time, the senior veterans fired a 21-gun salute (which was equal part touching and concerning with many of the aging service members displaying shaky grips and wobbly gaits).

After the graveside goodbye, the family filed back into the country church that Bud called home for almost a century.  An army of church ladies had whipped up the best in funeral dishes and made a spread that screamed Hoosier hospitality.  We feasted on whipped mashed potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, cooked green beans, slices of ham, warm yeast rolls, and pecan pies (among others).

Sisters, brothers, cousins, parents, friends all found places around tables covered in plastic wrap. The conversation was warm and the laughter was hearty.  Bud would have been so pleased to survey the scene, I imagine.  But I'm guessing he is just fine where he is right now.  I bet the first words he heard as he entered the gates of heaven were "Well done good and faithful servant."

Well done Great Uncle Bud.

You will be missed.

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