Remarkable Faith: A Funeral

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Church at Sunset.

I was just shy of 18 when one of my friends died in a car accident.

I’d been to very few funerals up to that point: a great-grandfather when I was very small; my best friend’s mother when I was 12.

I remember the day of her funeral vividly, in slow-motion. Setting up. Hearing the song “Tears in Heaven” practiced what seemed like a hundred times. Crying so much someone from the family section handed me tissues. The urn. The multitude of faces, people she had touched in one way or another.

I felt broken, sitting there, staring at the urn, the senior picture, the mother who never expected to bury a daughter.

My faith was a little broken at that point, too. That summer after my senior year may be the low point of my faith, despite the fact that I was entering college as a Virginia Baptist Scholar. God felt far. Freedom felt close as a new 18-year-old with a job, a boyfriend, independence looming.

God slowly worked at my heart as I entered college, and I discovered a new passion for service. It was nearly two years after the funeral that I was doing a Disciple Now weekend, trying to lead and counsel a group of middle-school girls. (Have I mentioned how much middle-schoolers scare me?) I knew the church felt familiar, but it wasn’t until I stepped into the sanctuary for our closing service that it hit me.

This was the church where we had my friend’s funeral.

I panicked and ran out. My then-boyfriend, Mr. V, came with me to the playground of the church as I cried, unable to fathom reentering the holy place, a sanctuary’s carpet that held my tears.

As he sat there with me and tried to make me smile by telling me his favorite “math love poem,” I think I realized that he was the one. Broken by death, healed by love.

But I still have a very violent reaction to “Tears in Heaven.”

Thanks, Mary, for the inspiration to write about a funeral that affected my faith. This is part of her Remarkable Faith series at Giving Up on Perfect

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8 thoughts on “Remarkable Faith: A Funeral

  1. Thanks for sharing, Jessie! I find myself remembering that time at the most unexpected moments, and I'm thankful for the happy memories I have of Stephanie that help to balance the difficult ones. Your story really highlights the way God continues to guide us, even when we have a hard time feeling and understanding it all.
    Best wishes! 🙂

  2. Well, that's just a horrible song anyway. (As in horribly sad, of course.)

    Jessie, thank you for sharing this. It's so hard to lose someone at that age. I really didn't think it was possible until my friend died.

    Thank you for linking up. Your post is beautiful.

  3. Isn't it amazing how powerful things like sacred space, music – even fragrances can be in calling up memories? Thank you for this visceral reminder of the many triggers for grief. And blessings as you continue to process all that this experience has meant in your emotional and spiritual journey.

  4. I still can't stand the smell of lilies since my mom died. But some things that bring up the memory of the funeral also bring up wonderful memories of my mom.Thanks for sharing.

  5. @Robin, My mom hates red roses, a result of her brother's funeral when she was 11. But you're right; it's always good to remember the pleasant along with the unpleasant so we don't take a large dose of bitter all the time.

  6. Hey Jessie, beautiful post. But you are going to have to share with me your favorite math love poem sometime. I can only imagine…
    one plus one is two,
    two plus one is three,
    my love for you's so great
    it exceeds infinity.

    How did I do?

  7. I think I'm glad I don't know that song.

    As a high school teacher, I have seen a number of children die way before I thought they should. It never gets easier. Never.

    In December, a former student died in a construction accident, and it was no easier. I didn't even like him. In fact, I'd told him more than once that he was obnoxious. Nonetheless, I mourned him. I cried and cried. It is awful to see a young person called to heaven, a life unfulfilled.

    Okay, I'm teary. It's time to wrap this up.

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