Thursday, August 11, 2005

One Last Look (at things that suck)

Nag!

"Write the next post!" Stu says. "Wouldja hurry up and post? It's been a freaking week. What ya gonna post about? Huh? Huh? Huh?"

God, I love that man.

Happy birthday, Stu.

The Next Post

Ok, I'm ready to wind up this "things that suck" tirade. Depressing. Let's sprint through this as quickly as possible.

To make it seem faster, let's do it without using a full stop.

Thank you all for your comments and insight and encouragement about my family and about forgiveness it's comforting to see people from parts far distant demonstrating love for me and my family ... makes me smile

(Ick. This is like some well-paragraphed ee cummings freak show. Sorry. I'll stop now.)

Furthermore, I agree with many of the things you said about forgiveness, even some of the things that I argued against. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to play devil's advocate; to question assumptions like "forgiveness is the way of God".

Finally, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my weekend.

On thursday, I went back to the town where I grew up; I drove down to pick up my wife, son, and a moving truck full of my parents' boxes and furniture.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to go back to church for an hour or so. But this wasn't for a regular church service. It was for a funeral.

A young man my sister's age had died - a kid we grew up with - and my dad was performing his funeral.

Now, about my dad and funerals:

My dad prepares for a funeral by sitting down with the family and listening to their stories. He compiles those stories - picks the best of them - and spends most of the funeral telling stories about the deceased. The funny stories are his favorites, and usually they're the favorites of the family as well. So his funerals end up being a combination of sweet and funny and sad, which taken as a package, usally turn out to produce a little comfort as a by-product.

And that's probably nice when you've lost someone you love. You get to spend some time with your friends, enjoying those memories, listening to my dad paint a gritty, beautiful picture of someone you're all going to miss. No obsessing over heaven, no dire warnings about hell, no whitewashing of the person's faults, no platitudes, no false hope. It's difficult for me to explain exactly what he does, but whatever it is, I'm convinced that my dad preaches the best funerals in the world.

So it was nice to get to hear my dad preach another funeral from that pulpit in that church where he's been the shepherd for 20-odd years. My sister and I came in at the last minute and stood in the back ... the place was packed.

My dad did his job: the funeral was spectacular, as usual, especially considering that these were the people who had treated him so poorly.

He had told me a few days before that he was having trouble deciding what scripture might go best with the funeral ... and as you might expect, he ended up with the perfect one: the story of the Samaritan woman, whose love and enthusiasm tapped at the hearts of all the people she knew, making them ring and resonate with the love of Christ.

After my dad had finished speaking and the funeral directors prepared to run the final slide show, I left the crowd and went meandering through the shadowy hallways of the church building. I poked my head into every classroom, trying to remember what grade I had been in when I had gone to class in room 9, trying to remember who my teachers had been.

I looked out the windows and remembered looking out the same windows with church friends who were like my brothers and sisters.

I chuckled at the paintings on the walls of the Junior High classroom; my sister had done one of those clumsy, garish things. There were her initials and the initials of her friends.

Library, a small room, with books to the ceiling.

The tiny, dusty broom closet. The black, cylindrical iron mailbox.

White columns. White steeple. White walls.

Dark stairwells, dark hallways that still figure prominently in my best dreams and nightmares.

And, of course, those people I grew up with. I didn't spend much time with them. When I had finished my tour, I went back to my sister and told her I was going to skip the trip by the casket. I would go and get the car. I was ready to go home.

7 comments:

LaughingJack said...

Thanks for the shout out, its good to be older than you. :)

I've always loved your writing, but I can't seem to wrap my brain around some of the spiritual debates(Though I have read them all). I think about that place to and realize its hard to go home again when there is not much to go home to. No fanfare, no, "Hey how ya been?" or hearty handshakes; it just kind of fades away after a while.

No matter what you have heard or how much you're angry, you know your Parents will be missed. There will be a hole in the hearts of all those people; something missing they will know they threw away, and can never get it back.

I forget who said it, but People are stupid. A single person, may be well read, and intelligent, but you put several of those people together and they're a mob. Mobs are made of people and they do stupid things because they are scared. A mob did this to your family, but there are people who still love them there.

All said and done - keep up the beautiful writing.

Stu

Paul said...

Sounds like a good closure sort of experience. I'm the same way about where I went to elementary school - the place still means a lot.

The Sis said...

Hey, I painted that mailbox, too. Or scraped rust off of it or something once during one of those "Teen Work Days" that they hold to get the youngsters to do the nasty work that no one else wants to do in the name of Jesus and pizza.

And I also have to say that the church building figures into many of my dreams, too. The only dream I remember vividly from my childhood is one about a vampire in the church building. He cornered me in the downstairs ladies' bathroom (cape, Transylvanian accent and all) and chased me around the building until we ended up in that scary room upstairs that looks out over the sanctuary. I think I hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher or something. Good to know I’ve always had that overactive imagination, I guess.

Matthew said...

its hard to go home again when there is not much to go home to.

That's well said.

Sounds like a good closure sort of experience.

Yes, although it depends on what you mean by "good". =)

a vampire in the church building...

Aha! I KNEW getting rid of the crucifix was a mistake.

Paul said...

Re. "good" - I guess it's all relative for this situation...

Matthew said...

(This is a test. You should disregard it.)

Matthew said...

Link to A.Lo's interesting thing.