My friend Ed passed away last week. He was a wonderful pastor, a great man and really fun guy to be around. His death was unexpected and shocking. As I read Ed’s obituary, his family placed a statement in the announcement that I have never seen before, which is saying something because I have read lots of obits down through the years. (It’s an occupational hazard). The obituary read: The family… has asked that family and friends wear cheerful clothing to the celebration service.
No one will confuse me with a fashion expert, but I’m not sure any of my clothes qualify as “cheerful.” Out of style maybe, but not cheerful. I’m not a Hawaiian shirt kind of guy and I don’t have any T-shirts with catchy sayings on them like the one with a finger pointing to the right and big letters saying “I’m with Stupid.” I’m more of a polo and khaki’s guy. Still I think I know what Ed’s family means. No black suits and dresses. No gloomy and drab apparel to match a gloomy and drab day. They are calling the funeral a “celebration service.” I’ve never been to a party wearing a black suit and tie. If it’s a party, you show up wearing clothes that reflect the fun you are ready to have. I think that’s the family’s point.
If the funeral service is truly going to be a celebration; and if we really believe that this is not the end for someone like Ed who has lived an amazingly wonderful Christian life; then we shouldn’t act or dress or like it is the end of the world. Ed is in heaven. It’s a place that Paul said is so wonderful that “no mind has conceived all of the things that God has prepared.” Ed does not need another chemo treatment; his remaining pain meds are not going to be used; he is singing and shouting from the top of his lungs. So why shouldn’t we celebrate and wear cheerful clothing?
Ed’s wife and daughter understand the truth of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians when he wrote: Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
In other words, we will miss our Christian friends and loved ones when they leave this old earth, but our emptiness is not permanent. Our hope rests in Jesus Christ the Defeater of death and the One who promised we can defeat the grim reaper too through Him.
I might not wear a Hawaiian shirt to the service, but I plan on being thankful for a God that promises that the grave doesn’t have the final word!