Last Friday, my husband and I attended the memorial service of one of his primary mentors.
We didn’t really use the word “mentor” back in the day. Pastor Bob was the pastor of Jim’s family’s church and also the father of his best friend. Jim said at the memorial service that he had spent almost more time at this family’s home than his own during his teen years, not counting sleep time.
Three of Pastor Bob’s children were in college when we were, so I got to know them when Jim and I started dating. The youngest came to the university later, but we were living nearby at the time. We saw her sometimes on campus and had her over occasionally. She began attending our church, and when she married, her husband became one of our assistant pastors. So we got to know them well, too.
We had hoped to have time to visit with the family before and after the memorial service, but we also didn’t want to intrude. We knew this was a special time for them when they needed each other, plus they had other friends and relatives there. But we did get to catch up with them during the visitation and at a lunch afterward that they graciously invited us to. Then Jim’s friend invited us to his house afterward, where all the family would be visiting the rest of the afternoon until different ones needed to head back to their homes. It felt something like a family reunion, and we were blessed to be a part of it.
Memorial services are good and sad at the same time. The whole reason for such a service was due to a beloved person’s absence. But it was a joy to hear of his life, his humor, the sayings he was known for, his heart for people, his integrity and work ethic. After each of his children spoke, the mic was open for anyone in the congregation to share a memory or something they appreciated about Pastor Bob. It’s amazing to consider the ripples that spread from one life to so many others.
Ecclesiastes 7:12 tells us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”
The “house of mourning” reminds us that
- Our lives will come to an end, and we need to be ready. “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
- Our lives will influence others for better or for worse. “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1a).
- “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
- Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-6), a place where He dwells, a place with no sorrow, crying, pain, sin (Revelation 21:1-4).
- Believers will see their believing loved ones again after death (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I’ve also pondered this last week that what I think of as the “old guard” —the faithful people who were major influences in our lives—is almost gone. They weren’t all old in years, though many were. Both my parents and my husband’s have passed away. The woman who was the greatest influence of my life next to my mom passed away a few years ago. The pastor of my early formative years went to heaven just last year. Now Pastor Bob. Other pastors, teachers, aunts, friends have gone on ahead.
Some of these were the ones I most counted on for prayer and counsel. What am I supposed to do without them?
Well, God is faithful and supplies all our needs. He counsels us through His Word and brings others in our lives to strengthen and support us.
But I’m humbled and stunned that I am supposed to be the “old guard” in others’ lives now. Who is sufficient for these things? Not me. But He is. Memorial services also encourage me to give my one brief life to Him and to others.
Two songs have been on my mind the last few days. This first one, Ron Hamilton’s “Goodnight,” came to mind because it was the reality of my husband’s friend, Steve, who took care of his father the last several years. The first stanza tells of a dad tucking his kids in bed and telling them good night. In the second stanza, the son now tucks the father in with the same message. In the third, the father has passed away, and the son looks forward to seeing him “in the morning.”
(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)