A Time to Wait

One of the saddest things about these days of pandemic and social distancing is the prohibition on funeral services, unless fewer than ten people attend. I read this morning about a grandmother's service that was attended by nine grandchildren and the priest while her four adult children listened on their phones and tablets from their cars in the parking lot. Most families are opting to wait until the crisis has passed to have a memorial service for their loved one.

In Italy and Spain, even the crematoriums cannot keep up with the rising death tolls. Military convoys are transporting bodies to other parts of the country to meet the demand, as in wartime. A grim reality that we pray will soon become part of the macabre history of this virus.

George Bernard Shaw once commented that death's statistics are very impressive - "One out of every one dies." Doesn't matter whether we succumb to Covid 19 or cancer or any other obvious proof of our mortality, death comes to everyone sooner or later. And when we lose those precious to us, we need to grieve, we need to remember, we need to mark their passing in significant and personal ways.

The Preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is "a time to be born, and a time to die; . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." In these days of pandemic, we might want to add regrettably, there is "a time to postpone, and a time to wait." 

That's the cruel part, it seems to me. To take the painful, heartbreaking experience of loss and make it worse, extending it, unresolved, with so much left undone, unspoken, unexpressed. Our coming together and being together is the beginning of our healing. The testimony of a person's life must be heard and celebrated. We long to bear witness to our faith and be reminded of the promises of God.  

As a pastor I have conducted more than four hundred funeral services, so I am well-acquainted with grief. I have taken enough rides in long black cars to last many lifetimes. As difficult as it is at times, I count it an honor to participate in these sacred moments, remembering those we love, testing our faith and saying our goodbyes.   

Woody Allen famously quipped, "I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be around when it happens." We understand how he feels. We would just as soon miss it altogether. On the other hand, you may recall the scene from Twain's classic, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," when Tom and Huck can't resist the opportunity to march into their own funeral service, creating a sensation of screams and fainting.

Somewhere in between denial and display is how we face the reality of death, our own and everyone else's too. As I think of all the grief that must follow the reports of lives lost to the virus and lives lost just because we all die, it makes me hurt for those who must wait, postponing their tears for a later day. Lord, have mercy.  


Gary Snowden said…
I echo the sentiments you express here. I officiated a funeral last Saturday (graveside only for immediate family members) and it was tough abstaining from something I always do--hugging the grieving spouse and family members. These are challenging days to be sure.
Miss Fluffy said…
Herb and I send our sympathy upon the loss of your nephew - case in point.

Popular Posts