Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Laid to Rest

June 23, 2013

Mom, Dad, Tiggy, Tina, and Caleb all rode together, leaving early Sunday morning as we had originally planned. They missed the worst of the weather, and arrived in due time late Sunday night. Even with no flat tires, they were pretty tired, too.

Monday morning there was time for a somewhat leisurely breakfast, before getting ready for the funeral. As the morning ticked on, preparations became more and more rushed, with curling irons and hair spray flying everywhere. Shortly before it was time to leave, I came downstairs from my visit to the second story of the guest farmhouse, in a bit of a hurry. Though almost ready myself, I had a bit of quick ironing to do for the boys, and only had about 15 minutes left to finish.
Grandpa used to try to clip
clothespins on his nieces' noses.
They clothespinned his flowers
at the memory.
Passing through the dining room, I saw Mom relaxing on the floor, one leg crossed casually over the other. Tina stood there talking to her. It was a pose I’d seen many times, since Mom likes to lie down on the floor just like that whenever she gets hot. Had I not been in such a hurry, it might have occurred to me to wonder why she was taking the time to lie down when she wasn’t even dressed yet, but no one ever accused me of being a female version of Sherlock Holmes. I have yet to get a deerstalker cap given to me for Christmas.

Turns out she had actually fallen and broken her foot, and was lying there in casual pain whilst her EMT daughter dashed by, oblivious. Awkward!

In my defense, let me just say that if she didn’t have a lifelong habit of lounging about on the floor in JUST THAT POSITION, I might not have made the mistake that I did.

My EMT skills weren’t needed anyway, since about all I did was hold her upright as she dressed. And then undressed, when she found out her dress was inside out, and then re-dressed. (See? Other people make mistakes, too!)

The service was a lovely effort by the whole family. Some of us sang, some of us spoke, and some were pallbearers, and some did more than one of the above. Many of our dear cousins from out of town had been able to attend, having just finished a family reunion the day before. And all of our dear cousins who were local attended.

After the service, Mom had promised to deliver a kiss to Grandpa before he was buried. She, Tina, and Tiggy gathered around the casket while she delivered it. As she stood on tiptoe and leaned over, her broken foot gave out on her (surprise, surprise). She teetered for a moment on the edge, barely escaped plunging head first into the coffin. The rest of us were rather taken aback to have the teary group closest to Grandpa suddenly erupt in hyena-like laughter. Had they succumbed to a moment of hysteria, brought on by the stress of the event? Nope, they were just having a very narrow escape. Grandpa would have chortled at that.

After a delicious family dinner, it was time to adjourn to the cemetery. My personal preference is to get the burying done with first and then eat, but when the service and dinner are more than 10 miles from the cemetery, such preferences have to give way to practicality. We all climbed into our vehicles, and prepared to follow the hearse and funeral home's car.

Mom and Dad went first, naturally, and we were just behind. A long train of cars queued up behind us. They stayed faithfully with us, right up until the usual eastward turn.  Expressions of disbelief, and yes, even a fair amount of guffaws broke out in our car as the hearse signaled to turn down the “Bridge Out 9 Miles” road. 

All the local cousins, well aware of what waited over the first hill, .9 miles away, pulled around and passed us on the right. Jack would have gone, too, but I begged him to follow the hearse. How else could I have gotten pictures of it turning around? Now that it was someone else’s problem to get Grandpa where he needed to go, my zest for documentation had returned in full force.

The hearse driver may have wondered why his long procession had shrunk to only three vehicles, but he didn’t have long to wait. Everyone else had long since arrived at the cemetery before the chronically tardy Kenneth Day arrived, late himself, and late for his own burying. Grandpa would have chortled.

I thought it was sweet that they had dug his grave so close to Grandma’s that the two liners were actually touching. I wasn’t really expecting to get to see Grandma, so to speak, but it was interesting. It was the closest any of us will be to her again before Jesus comes.

One final mishap yet remained before Grandpa could be truly at rest. All his life, from his mid-teens forward, he had believed and shared the Bible teaching that death is a sleep, and that Jesus will awaken us at His coming.

Cliff notes version:
1. What is a soul? Body + Breath = Living Soul (Genesis 2:7)
2. Can a soul die? Yes! (Ezekiel 18:4, 20, Matthew 10:28)
3. What happens when we die? We aren’t aware of anything, and no longer have conscious thought. (Psalm 146:3-4, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10)
4. When we die, what goes back to God? Our breath—in the Hebrew, the word translated as “spirit” is “ruach”, which means “wind”, or “breath”. In the Greek, it is “pneuma”, which also indicates breath. (Holy Spirit literally = Holy Wind or Holy Breath, for example.) Remember the equation from Genesis 2, above. Subtract the spirit, or breath, and you have no living soul. God gave us the breath of life, and when we die, it returns to him. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
 5. How did Jesus describe death? As a sleep. (John 11:11-14)
 6. When will the resurrection take place, and the dead live again? At Jesus’ second coming, the end of earth as we know it. (1 Thessalonians 4: 14-18, Job 14:12-15)

For more info: Spirits of the Dead 

The very nice funeral guys believed the popular teaching of the soul as a disembodied spirit leaving the body and going to heaven, and their grand finale reflected that belief. They had brought a whole bunch of blue helium balloons to release at the close of the graveside service, and handed them out generously to the large family group. As I began to see where this illustration was going, my own reaction was gratitude for their kindness, along with the thought that this was not the moment to interrupt their beautiful presentation with a Bible study on the true condition of the dead.
The handsome young man finished with a flourish. “As the soul of Kenneth Day is ascending into heaven, so these balloons also ascend into the heavens.” Following his lead, we all released our balloons.

Instantly, a stray gust of wind blew most of the balloons into the giant, overspreading tree that shaded that side of the cemetery, insistently lodging in its grasping branches. A few forlorn little balloons trailed up into the sky. I’m sure I would have remembered sooner the words of Solomon as he described the body turning to dust, and the breath returning to God who gave it…if I hadn’t been clutching my sides and whooping with helpless laughter.

Grandpa would have chortled at that, too.

Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening,
Steal across the sky.

Father, give the weary,
Calm and sweet repose,
With Thy tenderest blessing,
May our eyelids close.

Through the long night watches,
May Thine angels spread,
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning breaketh,
And the shadows flee,
May I wake from slumber,

To ever dwell with Thee.


  1. Interesting. I never thought a funeral could be funny. But your take did make it so.

  2. This one gets my highest rating: ♡♡♡♡♡