Do you do funerals…?

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“Do you do funerals and baptisms?”   

My neighbor asked me this question as I was coming back from the mailbox.  It immediately struck me as unusual.  As a minister, I do perform funerals and baptisms – along with weddings, child dedications and the other various ceremonies.  But I normally don’t get asked about this in my front yard.  

 “Well, yes I do”, I told him.  “Baptisms are usually a part of our church membership process, but we can discuss it.  I’m happy to help anyone out with a funeral.” My immediate thought was that Jim had a co-worker or friend who needed some help.

“Why do you ask”?  I said.

  “Well, Sue’s cancer is back.  It’s terminal.  The doctor gives her 10 to 12 weeks,” he said.    

My face and throat tightened as I now completely understood.  It was Sue, his wife, he was asking this for.  Am I so dense? She had undergone cancer surgery 3 months ago and they thought it was gone.  We too thought she was cured and it completely escaped me that it might be back. Now reality set in.  It wasn’t gone and the prognosis was terrible.  

I’ve done many funerals, including some for family members.  But for some reason, this one has affected me more.   

It could be that I knew her.  Or perhaps it’s because Sue was only 10 years older than me.  Or maybe that our children play together and their son is younger than my oldest. It could be that she had more life to live being only 53.   But, I think the real reason this funeral bothered me is I wondered, “Has she sucked all the marrow out of life?”    

One of my favorite movies is the Dead Poet’s Society where Robin Williams plays a teacher in a private boy’s preparatory school.  On the first day of class he takes the boys down to the trophy case and the wall where all the prior classes’ pictures are hanging. To get them thinking, he says, “Boys, these men are all pushing up daisies now.  They whisper to you, carpe diem or seize the day.”  Later he informs them that the mission of the Dead Poet’s Society is to, “suck all the marrow out of life”: a quote from Thoreau.   

Had Sue sucked all the marrow out of life? 

We all only get so much life and so much marrow to suck, so to speak. As a young minister you do funerals and don’t really think about this aspect.  But the older I get, I see the marrow indicator registering “higher” than the time I feel I may have left to suck it all out.   

As a believer in Christ, I’m comfortable with the “after-life.”  That destiny now concerns me only slightly.  It’s the “here-life” that I think is more bothersome.  Am I living well? Am I hugging my kids?  Am I crazily loving my wife? Why don’t I call my Mom, Dad, and sisters and friends more? Is the stress at the office worth it?  And the most significant question, “Am I completely fulfilling God’s plan for my life”? 

I saw that Sue’s time to suck the marrow out of life was gone. I want to end life with my “marrow indicator” being bone-dry.  

I’m afraid it won’t be, which bothers me.  

How about you? God has given you one life! What does your marrow indicator read?  

Life is short – don’t waste it.  

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  James 4:14  

(true story, different names – of course)


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