Death continues to cast it’s shadow during this season. Yesterday, my family attended the odd funeral of my grandmother. I say it was “odd” because of the ongoing affects of the coronavirus pandemic. We had to wear masks and maintain our distance, which made grieving harder. The funeral was once again held at the grave-site. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll recall the prayer I said just over a week ago at my other grandmother’s funeral. That’s two grandmothers passing away in a week and a half. It’s been bizarre, to say the least.
I was asked to say a prayer similar to the one I shared last week, however, after reading the obituary containing the words “funeral officiated by Rev. Daniel Seabaugh,” it became apparent to me I had signed up for more than I realized. I slightly panicked.
I’m not a reverend. I’m not ordained. I have never officiated a funeral in my life. When my Aunt and Uncle handed me cash for my services and asked me if I was delivering the eulogy, I was stunned. What is a eulogy?
Thankfully, my brief words and prayer were received well and, I believe, honored my grandmother.
In what follows, I will share the words and prayer I spoke while standing beside my grandmother’s open casket. I have changed some of the word structure because verbal communication doesn’t always translate well to written form. My words came from Timothy Keller’s book On Death, which I recently reviewed. The prayer was written the night before the funeral and consists of my own thoughts.
Unprepared for Death
In a recent book by pastor Timothy Keller, he had this to say about death: “Death is the Great Interruption, tearing loved ones away from us, or us from them. Death is the Great Schism, ripping apart the material and immaterial parts of our being and sundering a whole person, who was never meant to be disembodied, even for a moment…Death is hideous and frightening and cruel and unusual. It is not the way life is supposed to be, and our grief in the face of death acknowledges that. Death is our Great Enemy, more than anything else. It makes a claim on each and every one of us, pursuing us relentlessly through all our days.”
In the book, Keller provides four reasons why he believes people are less prepared for death than their ancestors. For the sake of time, I’d like to share two of those reasons with you. Then I’d like to say something encouraging and end with a prayer.
One reason why we struggle so much with death is because the secular world requires us to believe in this-world meaning and fulfillment. If we buy into such a worldview, we’ll also buy into the notion that nothing supernatural exists. If nothing supernatural exists, meaning and fulfillment must be achieved within our material world. You and I and whatever we think about the world becomes ultimate truth. In essence, truth becomes purely subjective and death is the end and truly the “great enemy.”
Here’s one thing I know about grandma: She didn’t believe in this-world meaning and fulfillment. She wouldn’t want us to believe it either.
A second reason why we’re less prepared for death than our ancestors is because our modern secular culture has redefined death to mean nonexistence. By so doing, we are saying life has no significance and our presence on earth is utterly meaningless. Within such a worldview, death takes away the significance and joy of things. A sunset loses its beauty. A gentle touch from a loved one is no better than a slap in the face from an enemy. Even though the secular world has redefined death as nonexistence, they do not take their position to its logical conclusion, which could only produce sadness and despair. Instead, our world is working overtime to find significance in things such as sex, money, careers, and relationships, all of which succumb to death.
Grandma didn’t believe you could find significance in these things. We shouldn’t believe it either.
So, what did grandma believe?
A Life Surrendered
Grandma believed in Jesus. She believed that all things were made through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).
She believed in eternal life — that all who trust in Jesus will receive it (John 3:16).
She believed that to be absent from the body is to be present with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:8).
She believed in the resurrection — that she would rise again in a physical body, to live on a physical earth, in the presence of her physical Savior.
She believed that, at the cross, death and the power of Satan was defeated (Hebrews 2:14).
She believed that the best life is the life surrendered to Jesus.
She believed that, when we die, we do not become part of the universe and lose our individuality, rather, we live for eternity in loving relationships with each other and with Jesus.
She believed that, one day, we will once again walk, eat, hug, and be hugged. One day we will see each other and say, “I always knew you could be like this. I saw glimpses of it. I saw flashes of it. Now look at you.”
C. S. Lewis had this to say about that beautiful reunion: “God will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into…a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness…That is what we are in for. Nothing less.”
Do you believe these truths? Grandma would want you to.
Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, we celebrate the life of a woman who knew you deeply. A woman who served her church and family with love, grace, and poise. We thank you for her gospel witness and her heart of worship. We thank you for her incredible pies and all the times she nourished our bodies and souls through her cooking and care.
Jesus, we claim the following truths over Jewel Seabaugh and our family:
You have put death to death. You have conquered the grave and defeated the power of Satan. All who trust in your name will receive eternal life. All who surrender to you will be raised to life. You will rule and reign forever as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We do not have to be frightened by our own impending deaths, but can rejoice at the marvelous victory of the cross.
Heavenly Father, we know that you designed us for life, beauty, and worship. We praise you today for life and look forward to the day we see you face-to-face.
We join together with Jewel and the angels in heaven, who at this very moment are declaring “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lamb who was slain.”
Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the life of Jewel and her heart of worship. Thank you that our lives were richly blessed because of her. Thank you that her life was an example of pursuing you until the very end. I pray for everyone of us, that we would have the same perseverance.
It’s with gratitude in our hearts and worship on our lips that we pray in the name of faithful Jesus. Amen.