Sunday, September 30, 2012

Even In Tragedy, Somehow, All Is Well

From today's Times and News-Star

He stood as the soloist sang near the casket, and it didn’t surprise me at all.

Then the pallbearers stood, and then I stood, and everyone at the funeral stood, mostly in honor of the message of the song but also in honor of a man who could no longer stand with us. By then, the tug was too strong.

At a funeral, I’d never been a part of anything quite like it.

Jay died at 58, most unexpectedly, three weeks ago this Sunday morning. He was to go on his paper route and then on to church, where he sang bass most faithfully for our choir, right behind my wife and the altos.

But a massive heart attack changed that and ended on Earth a life like the ones we as children thought everyone led: Little League coach, Lion’s Club member, Jaycee, Scout Master, honest businessman, hometown boy.

Then you grow up and learn, often painfully, that Jay was sadly the exception to the rule. There are a lot of wonderful people in the world, but few decide to ease about as quietly and as efficiently and as selflessly as Jay did.

The church’s first three rows were filled with his family, and I knew soon after the service started that this would be no “ordinary” funeral. The congregation sang “Because He Lives” and I looked at the family and they were singing every word, including his mother, standing, her eyes closed and her singing strong, though just 10 feet removed from her son’s casket.

Four members of his family spoke, each briefly and each telling you a bit more about Jay than you knew before. He was quite often a bit late, for instance. One mid-December Wednesday evening the church bus, talking the choir caroling, had to stop when someone saw Jay running down South Main Street in pursuit. Jay’s brother said it felt odd to be in church when, on this Thursday morning, he’d normally be looking at Jay in their insurance office. “Well, it’s only 10:30,” he said, “but I’d like to at least THINK Jay would be in by now.”

His twin “baby” sister by five minutes said her brother was so nice that he even agreed to take a college class with her, just to please her. “It was old English romantic literature,” she said, noting it was one of her brother’s few regrets.
And his brother-in-law spoke of Jay’s servant’s heart, his love for country. “He never served in the military,” he said, then pointing toward Boy Scout Troop 45, four rows deep, in full uniform, he added, “but Jay served his country, every day; he was the most patriotic person I’ve ever known.”

So by the time the soloist got to the third verse of “It Is Well With My Soul,” the stage was sort of set, I guess. There was a spirit, a feeling of tragedy and loss mixed with goodness and hope, and when the music kicked up a bit and the words kicked in …“Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll…,” everybody just started standing, in honor of the spirit present and a promise kept, in honor of this man, brother, son, husband, father and friend.