“Look upon him and be radiant, and let not your faces be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5
I did not know who this man was. I really did not want to be there. I don’t like funerals, especially ones held at funeral homes. They always remind me of my uncle’s. His name was continually mispronounced. The family sat behind one curtain while the casket was behind another. At the time deemed appropriate, both curtains were drawn for a viewing. It was awful – impersonal, a real sideshow atmosphere. This was what I was expecting today. This was not what occurred.
I had come an hour earlier to hug my friend whose 80-year-old father had died. She and I were inseparable 23 years ago. She and her husband were our first married couple friends while we lived in Miami. We have been apart for 20 years because of our changing locations. The distance of time and locale, however, was instantly alleviated with just one hug. The pallor of the “parlor” took on an unexpected warmth.
From there I went and drove around the cemetery for 30 minutes, waiting for the service to begin. It was a quiet time, a reflective time. It is a stately old cemetery with some grand monuments, but even more impressive are the names which they carry. I recognized many of them as belonging to the leaders of our community. The cumulative tears shed on that acreage you would think might somehow have made it melancholy, especially in the older section where there are numerous children’s graves. That’s not the case, however. It is beautiful land with grand old trees and glorious green grass. There was a peace, which seemed to permeate the land and penetrate me.
It was in this mood that I entered the chapel. It was almost completely filled, so I sat on a back row. I noticed that everyone’s hair was grey or white or silver. There was a gentle murmur caused by friends consoling friends and then silence, for the most glorious music began. Violin and organ blended perfectly. Old familiar hymns rang out, grand old classics, some I had not heard for years.
The funeral began. There were three men officiating. I recognized one; another was unmistakably a Catholic priest; but the third, as I stated at the beginning of your letter, I did not know.
It is to him that I would like to turn your and my attention. Oh, the other two were impressive. They read the Lord’s Word beautifully and prayed the prayers movingly. It’s just . . . it’s just . . . this other man glowed. He was old. I probably would not recognize him now if I saw him. He was of average stature. When he came forward to give the eulogy and pray, I thought, “Oh, he must be a friend or a relative.”
Then he started speaking. Then I started listening. It was the most comforting talk I’ve ever heard. In ten years’ time, probably 95% of that congregation would be dead. He knocked down fears. He knocked down regrets. It was not a pie-in-the-sky talk, but rather a shoot-from-the-hip talk. He was talking with the full strength of the Holy Spirit. He glowed. You could sense this man knew his Savior; loved his Savior; spent hours daily with his Lord; was on a first-name basis with Him.
When he started praying, there was such an intimacy that I had to open my eyes to be sure that Jesus wasn’t standing right there next to him. Now, as I reflect, I believe our Lord was. The psalmist said, “Look upon him and be radiant, and let not your faces be ashamed.” This holy man did radiate, and I think it was from his exposure to the Son.
But what about the rest of the verse? Well, all I know is that his enlightened eulogy and prayer allowed a lot of us listeners to look up unashamedly to our Lord. We can’t glow unless we have the exposure to the Son, our Lord Jesus. This man had it. I want it. Do you have it, Precious Pilgrim?