A wonderful funeral. Can I say that? Does it sound sacreligious? Dangit, i will say it anyway. An amazing thing happened during my brother's funeral yesterday and it brought healing and laughter into our lives. We disrupted the funeral service, not intentionally . . mind you. But the elderly Roman Catholic Priest had to stop his sermon less than a minute into it and find out why our entire row had started laughing. This is what happened.
It all started a few days ago when we were sharing our dreams about our brother Lewis, who just passed away from an overdose. I also had a dream that I told my mother and sisters. More than a dream . . . you know the kind. Well, in my dream, Lewis was accompanying us as we walked around a room full of gardening seed beds. He stopped at each one and tested the soil. The very last one had been seeded with potatoes, and he put his hand into the soil to test it, and brought up a string of potatoes. Some of the potatoes where dead, and he ripped off the dead ones and threw them away, and then replanted the live potatoes. Then the dream ended.
Well, the service started with the Priest opening his Bible at Ecclesiastes. And this is exactly what he said:
"There is a time to be born, and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to uproot.
You know, you plant the potatoes, and then you pull up the potatoes . . ."
Thats the point where my mother got uber-happy and started talking, and my sisters all looked at me and giggled, and I said "Hey . . thats my dream!" And since we had somehow managed to disrupt the service, the priest was curious about what we were discussing and so we had to explain the dream to him. He was cool . . . and quite happy about it.
"So thats why you were looking aghast", he said.
At that point, it seemed like the whole chapel started filling with light, I felt a massive surge of inner joy and my family also experienced it. That was the turning point for the whole day. We were laughing and smiling from that point on, even though it didnt make sense. It was as if God was saying that He knew all that was going on, and somehow His timing was right and good. And maybe the priest was correct - that God had actually "CALLED" Lewis home.
[Some of you were praying for this . . . well there it was - thanks]
Why a Roman Catholic priest? Lewis's ex-girlfriend, Lisa, who had gone on record as Lewis's Next-of-Kin, organized the funeral, and she thought that since we were religious, we were probably Catholic. This fact was proven false, when the priest was crossing himself and no one else in the room knew what to do with their hands, or where to touch, and couldn't keep up with him anyway. But not to worry - he was a wonderful old priest who managed to hear from God exactly what he needed to say and which Bible verse to read out. Lisa also picked out Lewis's favourite song and played it towards the end - Eric Clapton's version of "Knock knock knocking on heaven's door"
Another very interesting thing that Lisa organized. It was open-casket, and my brother was laid in his coffin with a gospel tract in each hand. The kind of KingJamesy-retro30's-AlfredHitchcock-scarywriting kind of tracts, one of which said in big black bolded letters, "Do you know if you will go to heaven or hell?"
Apparently, when they found his body in the toilet of a Sydney railroad station, he only had two things in his possession: A bag of syringes and some gospel tracts. She thought it appropriate to let Lewis go out with it in his hand. I'm glad she did.
When the funeral ended, we gathered around an esky/ice-chest full of coke and enjoyed the mingling of families. The focus was Lewis and Lisa's son, my nephew, who is named Alex Wayne John Jones Evans and has Lewis's mouth and looks. He is 6 months old and will never know his dad, but i am sure he will be part of a much larger family. Lewis is our loss, but he has left us a gift, someone to carry on his dad's gift to the world.
I thought i was meeting Lisa for the first time. But she told me that we had met years earlier in a Brisbane jail. Indeed we had. We were both stuck in the waiting room for an hour. I was waiting to visit my brother and she was visiting her partner. She later ended up with Lewis and has now looped into our lives. I remember seeing her back then. I remembering praying for her in that waiting room. Wierd, ay?
The next few hours were spent driving back over the New South Wales border into Queensland, along the Gold Coast and to Surfers Paradise, where we stopped for a swim on the beach. Then home for a big early Christmas meal - ham and Christmas pudding- with my Aunty Olwen, and cousin Paul (and Marion).
It was really a great service. Yes, it was sadd. Yes we cried. We stood at the coffin and looked at our brother. My mother kissed his cold face. We said goodbye. And we were also filled with hope that he is now gardening in heaven. And we sensed the wound of our loss being mended by God's spirit. We were challenged to make the most of the time we have, to create more memories for our own families. We felt a little guilty that we had laughed so much during the day, but then it seemed right, and appropriate. And i hope that when it is my turn to go, that their will also be much laughter and sillyness at my funeral.
Right. Funeral One over. Now to get ready for my Dad. We say goodbye to him at 5pm today. Different Funeral Home. Different group of people. Much older. I might wear my tie for this one. I have to write and read the eulogy.
Yesterday i was a grieving brother.
Today i am a greiving son.
God give me the strength today:
To end this chapter well.
To help others end it also.
To say what needs to be said.
To be strong enough to comfort those who need my hand on their shoulder, but not too strong that i miss the comfort you have for me, and for those who can only receive such a rich gift in the face of severe loss.
For when i am poor, then i am rich.