Sunday, September 07, 2014

When I'm Gone

From the Miami News-Record, Sunday, September 7, 2014

This past week I celebrated the life of Don Hall with his family and friends. I met Don when we attended church east of town and marveled at how many children he could fit in the cab of a pickup truck. (I became much more at ease when I heard he had bought a van – then I learned it only bought him that much more room for more kids.) I stood in that church parking lot and asked my Pops (and pastor), “Why does he bring all those kids to church?” Pops smiled and said, “Because he wants to.” And oh, how he wanted to. He felt a calling, a desire, a mission to introduce as many kids as he possibly could to Jesus and if that meant testing the limits of a vehicle to fit just one more in, he did it. About four years later my husband and I were wet-behind-the-ears youth leaders at a church south of town and had the privilege of seeing again just how many lives “Papa Don” touched when he rolled into the parking lot one night with an even bigger vehicle – a bus – in which to haul kids to church. When he stepped onto those streets of gold last week and had instant knowledge of how many lives he had touched, how many people he had led to salvation, I would imagine he just grinned his shy grin and ducked his head as he heard his Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I am not a fan of funerals. (I might also ask, “Who is?”) I will avoid a funeral just about any way I can simply because I think too many times we get caught up in mourning and forget to remember. And since I’m a cry-er in the presence of other crying folks, I just don’t subject myself to that if I don’t have to. So often we forget to focus on the good that person did and the way they lived their life and we instead shed our tears in earthly sadness. I guess you could say we get a bit selfish when it comes to someone dying. We will miss them and we can’t stand the thought of life here without them, then we cry. And if you’re me, you cry a lot. So just know this: if I show up to your funeral, I really thought you were pretty darn special.
As I sat in that pew last week waiting for Don’s funeral to begin, I thought ahead to my own passing. (An event I am not planning on having happen for a very long time.) I leaned over to my oldest daughter and said, “Listen to me, young lady. When I die, there had better not be a memorial service held in a church. I want a party.” She looked at me with the strangest look and said, “A party? Like, what on earth would we do at a ….. a party in honor of your…..DEATH??”
So given that she pinned me down right there, I pondered a bit before I said, “Well, you had better eat BBQ. And chocolate cake. Lots of chocolate cake. You guys take turns telling stories about my clumsiness, read some of the stuff I’ve written over the years. Talk about my awful hair. Laugh. Poke a little fun at me – heck, I’ll be gone, so go for it.” I went on to tell her that I’ll be writing my own obituary, so that’ll taken care of already. She seemed relieved at that. She was amused at my party plans and nodded a lot so I hope she intends to honor my wishes.

And while y’all are at my memorial party crying only because you’re laughing so hard you might wet your pants, I will have already hit the gates of Heaven, hopefully hearing the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and not, “Girl, you’ve got some explainin’ to do.”

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