So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Laughter. That was the overwhelming sound I heard at a funeral I attended recently at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church. Longtime member Lula Mae Pryor had just passed way, and her funeral was at Ashland. When I say longtime member, think looooongtime member. She was a member at Ashland for over 60 years and served as the church custodian for 31. You can read Pastor David Prince’s eulogy for Lula Mae here. She was one of a kind, and everyone knew it. I did not have the blessing of knowing Lula Mae very well. My family and I came to town and joined Ashland after her health did not allow her to attend on Sundays, but even from her place of rest she teaches me.
The thing that I learned from Lula Mae was that a good funeral is a blessing. Now, when I say good funeral I don’t mean the beauty of flowers, the smoothness of the service, the effectiveness of the sermon, or the quality of the music. When I say good funeral, I am talking about the person that the funeral is meant to celebrate. By all accounts Lula Mae’s life was one to celebrate. She was a woman of deep prayer, an outstanding encourager, and a bold witness. As Pastor David notes, Lula Mae lived the life she had to the fullest never sinfully wishing for a life she did not have.
I walked away from the funeral convicted, encouraged, and blessed. Sure, sadness pricked my heart, yet it was overwhelmed by the other emotions. When God ordains an end to the number of my days will I have lived a life that encourages and challenges others to love Jesus and love Jesus more daily? Will I be remembered as one who was never satisfied with the life he had and was always looking toward the next thing? Will I be remembered as a man of prayer?
This good funeral challenged my soul. Human life is a vapor (James 4:14), and we only get a limited number of years to impact our neighbors for God’s kingdom. How am I spending my finite number of days? Death ought to remind us to ask those questions, and a good funeral causes us to ask those questions with hope. We can leave that legacy if we, like Lula Mae, fix our eyes on the founder and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:2).
So, then, what could possibly cause a funeral to be a blessing? Only the gospel. Death is a result of sin, yet God sent his Son to conquer death through his death, burial, and resurrection. Even as death is conquered it still happens in this mortal life until Jesus returns, yet death has been conquered to the point that God can use it to challenge us to live for and magnify his kingdom. God can use a funeral to challenge us to be more like Lula Mae as she was more like Jesus.
The laughter that was present at Lula Mae funeral was not mocking. It was true joy for the life she lived and the impact she had on those in attendance. It was a good funeral. It was good for my soul. Will I, will you, have a good funeral? Will I, will you, have a funeral like Lula Mae Pryor? We will leave a legacy of Christlikeness that causes joy in all those with whom we interact? A good funeral is a blessing to the soul.