My uncle went home to see Jesus 13 years ago and I still remember the funeral sermon. These notes were collected at the time, and I thought it best to share now since I have recently uncovered a lost blog post. Most of what you read here was written at that time, but I have taken the liberty to make a few tweaks.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
I have thought about these words a bit since then. Most parties are intended to live in the moment as a celebration of self. A house of mourning necessarily creates a pause to contemplate the past, to realize the present, and to consider the future. Whether the deceased person was a pillar of the community or the shame of the town, the end is the same. They are gone, and only a few hours of public remembrance will be had.
How do you want your few hours of fame to go? That is, how do you want to be remembered? Some would say that this is a vain way to go about this, but if I am understanding this verse, it is good for us to think about this. Otherwise, it would not be better to mourn than to feast. We would not be reminded that all of mankind will come to a similar end and would not be encouraged to lay it to heart.
My uncle Ray Nickel was the happiest man I ever met. When I first looked down at him in the casket, I didn’t want to believe that it was him because he no longer had a smile on his face. He no longer looked at me with the compassionate expectation of good things. He no longer was there to encourage anyone around him to live upright lives in the fashion of Corum Deo. That is, to live before the face of God.
Nearly twenty years ago, he watched his own father die of cancer. From that day on, Ray was the obvious choice to succeed my grandfather as the patriarch of the family. There are other men who can give good advice in the family, but there has always been a difference in Ray. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was a sense of empowering others to do good works. Hebrews 10:24 reminds us to do so. My memory of Ray serves as a reinforcement of this.
So what is my takeaway from this event? Live until you die. You will want to be remembered for something, and it is better to be remembered as someone who failed than to be remembered as someone who didn’t even try. Remember that this world is just the precursor to the real story, but is still an important launching point to eternity. One day we will all be laid to rest. People will mourn the loss, remembering who we once were, then they will eat a meal together and depart in their respective ways. You only get a few hours. Make them count.
And you make them count in the time you have leading up to your death. Rest in the goodness of God and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, that the overflow of your joy may cause others to want to emulate your pattern of life. How can you know that this pattern of life is worth emulating?
2 Timothy 1:13-14 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
You got one shot. Make it count.