Posted tagged ‘funeral’

Funerals Bring out the Best in Us

March 17, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Being a pastor has afforded me many opportunities to preach or attend funerals over the years.  While these occasions provide some truly interesting stories, one common theme connecting them all is the goodness of the deceased remembered by family and friends.

In one instance where I had no personal connection with the deceased, I listened to the personal remarks of a couple of people and concluded that this person was truly a blessing to his family and church.  That’s when an elderly lady seated in front of me leaned over to her friend and “tried” to whisper, “Do you think they’re talking about another Bill Davis?”  Apparently, they thought that what we heard was too good to be true!

I recall only a handful of times when the obvious negative traits of the deceased were acknowledged.  Those speaking on behalf of the individuals were realistic and honest about the rough, sharp-edged, and even mean-spirited traits portrayed in these person’s lives.

These courageous friends and family dared to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’  Yet, their acknowledgment opened the door to also recognize some of the redeeming qualities in these individuals that may often have been overlooked by others or overshadowed by their own difficult personalities.

I was unacquainted with the deceased at the funeral I attended yesterday, but it was another of many instances where I sensed a missed blessing by not having the opportunity to know the deceased.  Though it was indicative that he persisted on having things done only his way, his love for family, friends, and church – along with an over-active sense of humor – endeared him to many people, and especially his teenage grandchildren, most of whom referred to him as ‘the greatest person they had ever known.’                 Our society has conditioned us toward suspicion, hesitant to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  We are quick to find fault and slow to look for the redeeming qualities in people.  We tend to make assumptions based on what we see (appearance) rather than what we could observe (character).

Further, we are swift to judge and unwilling to forget.  We are prone to allow a person’s single lapse in judgment or behavior to taint forever their image in our minds.  We typically are not big on mercy or second chances, which is part of our own unpalatable qualities.

The speakers at the funerals where the true colors of the deceased were stated unknowingly taught the listeners a lesson: look for and encourage the redeeming qualities of those present around us rather than waiting until they are no longer here to realize how their goodness impacts others.

I want to live my life in such a way that those who come in support of my family and to bid me farewell will readily remember the redemptive traits of behavior and attitude that, by God’s grace, I was enabled to portray.  The Bible teaches us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves.”  That is what it means to live redemptively.

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Paying Final Respects

September 29, 2014

Paying Final Respects

Dr. Steven J. Callis

 

Does progress always improve society?  Is it possible that some scientific or technological advances actually hinder societal growth?  Is it always to our advantage that developers are accommodating us with easier and more convenient ways to accomplish our daily tasks?

Paradise Funeral Home in Saginaw, Michigan has opened a new door in their field of service, now providing drive-thru funeral visitations.  The owner admits that he wanted to “bring something to Saginaw that we have never had before.”  Well, he certainly accomplished that goal!

Never leaving their vehicle, persons can sign the guest book, drop a memorial into a memorial box, and then drive forward to a window where they can spend up to 3 minutes viewing the deceased.  As the viewer approaches the window, the weight of the vehicle triggers a mechanism that opens the curtain.

The manager of the funeral home is quoted as saying, “We wanted to provide convenience and accessibility for our customers for the times and days they don’t want to get out of their vehicle.” They confessed their surprise at receiving so much negative feedback from people in the community.  The drive-thru system was installed at the cost of $300,000, but there is no additional charge in funeral costs for the drive-thru service.

Admittedly, this new-fangled visitation service is convenient, time saving, and the visitors who use it do not even have to dress up for the occasion.  It also avoids what might be awkward moments for some people who do not know what to say to the family or wonder how long they should stand at the casket and stare at the deceased.  But what message does that send to the family?

What concerns me is not so much the idea itself, but the indicated mindset of our society that it suggests.  From their earliest years we seek to protect our children from hurt, disappointment, and difficulty.  I am certainly not opposed to rewards and encouragement and a positive environment, but an easy life that is sheltered from all negative impetus is not healthy.  In fact, the current trend to make everything easy and convenient and accommodating is not always best for our society.

I am reminded of the little boy who found a cocoon and noticed that the creature inside was trying to break through the covering to escape.  Being kind hearted and helpful, the boy carefully took his scissors and cut the cocoon open to free the newborn butterfly.  Its wings were shriveled and small, and it could not, and never did, fly.  The boy did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to break through the cocoon was an instinctive necessity that would strengthen its wings and prepare it to soar through the sky.

We will have reached a sad state when we become so careless that finding the time, energy and heart to get out of the car in order to express our support and sympathy to a grieving friend or loved one is more than we are willing to do.  No matter how far we advance in technology, human beings will never outgrow the instinctive need to know that someone cares.

“C” Words We Try to Avoid

May 9, 2014

by Steven J. Callis

I attended the memorial service of a lifelong friend last week. What he thought to be severe sinus, then a wisdom tooth problem, then TMJ, turned out to be cancer in the neck and throat. He would have preferred dental surgery over chemo and radiation, for sure. The battle lasted less than a year.

Cancer is a cruel enemy. It likes to be in charge. It demands its own way. It gives no thought to setting its own time schedule and ignoring one’s priorities. It is painful and debilitating. It refuses to succumb even to the pleas of the wealthy and healthy and powerful and beautiful. It cares nothing for age, gender, ethnicity, education, or politics. It is a friend to no one.

Commitment is another “C” word many people like to avoid. It, too, is very demanding. It insists on being number one. It expects to be permanent; to be written in stone. It has no room for slackers and half-hearts. Like cancer, it will not be compromised by age, gender, ethnicity, education, or politics. It will not give in to the rich and powerful. From the least to the greatest of those who choose it, commitment demands absolute loyalty.

My friend is an example of what these words can do to a person. He did not choose cancer, it chose him. In its normal fashion, cancer turned his world upside down and did a number on him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a disease that cannot seem to help itself. Yet, its havoc-wreaking attack did not cause complete devastation. That was its goal, but it failed.

For in the midst of this intense battle, priorities of life were examined and commitments were evaluated. Despite all the bad it caused, the battle led my friend to a place where his faith in Christ and his love for others were solidified. Oh, he had faith, and he had friends and family, but these changes in his life circumstances made his focus more about others and less about self. His Cancer became a Catalyst for Complete Commitment.

We would expect a bleak prognosis such as untreatable cancer to send its victim into a frightening, dangerous, downward spiral of emotions and energy. Not so for my friend and others who become motivated to settle their debates and unanswered questions. His newfound commitments gave him a peace, a positive outlook, and a heart for those around him.

Cancer is not the key to that equation. Commitment is the key. It is a “C” word that will be your friend and take you to the better places of life when you give yourself to it. That is especially true when your highest commitment is to your relationship with Jesus Christ.