Life does not always work out the way we planned it. Funerals turn into celebrations, and celebrations turn into funerals. Life has a way of requiring rapid agenda changes, and our reaction to such staccato lurches is not always rational.
Several years ago Alexander Sanders, Jr., Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, speaking to a graduation class at the University of South carolina told this interesting story about his daughter Zoe. . He said that when he came home from work she was crying as if her heart would break. Her pet turtle had died, and she was finding the mysteries of life and death difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. The task of explaining to a three-year-old what had happened was not a situation that he approached with much confidence. He explained to the graduating class.
_I gamely tried. I began, as many of you would have, with the obvious argument that we should go to the pet store and replace one turtle with another. But even at three years of age Zoe was smart enough to know that there is a certain non-transferability about living things. Even turtles are not toys, and there is no such thing as getting another one just like the last one.
Finally in desperation I said to Zoe, "I'll tell you what we will do. We will have a funeral for the turtle". Being a three-year-old, however, she did not know what a funeral was. But, warming to the idea that this diversion might work, if I could find a sufficiently satisfying way to explain what a funeral was, I said, "A funeral is like a great festival in honor of the turtle." But, she did not know what a festival was either. So I departed from the lawyer's tactic of artful diversion and resorted to the politician's tactic of outright lying and said, "A funeral is sort of like a birthday party. We'll have ice cream and cake, lemonade and balloons, and all of your friends will come over to our house to play, just because your turtle has died."
Ah! Success at last. No more tears. Much more joy. And an almost instantaneous conversion to Zoe's usual smiling self again. Happy daughter. Clever daddy. But then an entirely unforeseen thing happened. The turtle began to move, crawling away in a matter of seconds, every bit as lively as before it "died". I was at a total loss for words. But Zoe appraised the situation perfectly. With the all the innocence of her tender years, she looked up me and said, "Daddy, let's kill it"._
Life has a way of turning a funeral into a party or a party into a funeral. It happens with pets and people. It happens with friends, lovers, jobs, and dreams.
Several men were talking and the question came up - what would you like for people to say when they look down at you in your casket? The first man responded that he would like for his friends to say he was a good husband and a good citizen. The second replied that he would like his friends to say that he lived a good clean life and left money for his children to go to college. The third man responded "I would want someone to say, 'Look, he is moving.'"
While it is not likely that any of us will be resurrected at our funeral, it would be wonderful if at the end of our earthly lives, our departure could become a celebration as we leave on the "Long Journey" home. There is an expiration date on all our lives. If we half-believe the things we preach and teach at Church, our return to the source from which we came deserves to be celebrated. Think about that as we let Lent prepare us for remembering the death of Jesus and for a proper celebration of his resurrection.