“I leave you with peace, so don’t be troubled or afraid." ~ John 14:27
He stunk of stale cigarettes and his scraggly, hair hung as a tangled mop of mousy grey. Weighing no more than 120 pounds, Eddy was somewhere in his sixties, but years of living on the street, sleeping on subway grates or flophouse steps, had taken its toll and his mind and body. Today he was going to do something he hadn’t done in over four decades.
The concrete steps of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral were still wet from the morning rain, but he waited on them despite the dampness seeping through his corduroys. Eddy was going to church today. Well, technically he was attending a funeral for a man he barely knew; yet a man whose kindness had enabled a cup of coffee or an occasional sandwich for as long as he could remember.
“Jonesy” had greeted Eddy nearly every morning on the walk to his office with whatever money he pulled from his pocket. His eyes were what struck Eddy the most. They seemed to sparkle with a brilliance that glowed from deep within his soul. They’d chat briefly. And Jonesy would always close with “Have a blessed day my friend,” before continuing on his way.
Eddy had no details on Jonesy’s passing, but he felt his friend deserved his presence at the memorial service today.
As people started to arrive, Eddy moved to the shadows. He expected hurtful comments about his appearance so he waited until the service began before entering. Though there was fear in his chest, there was none in Eddy’s heart when he took his place in the last pew. He so hoped God would understand.
He was immediately surprised by the joyful demeanor of the congregation. Beautiful music filled the air without effort; the sound rushing in and around every person in the room.
The tone was happy rather than mournful, celebratory instead of somber. Almost no one was dressed in black. Which struck Eddy as strange, because at the altar was a wooden coffin containing the lifeless body of a 56-year-old man.
A few spoke about their relationship with Jonesy. Most, if not all of them, made sure to express thanks to God.
There was nothing particularly sad or mournful about the scripture readings either. They seemed to provide a glimpse into a brighter world, a world where all Christians will be reunited, where the bonds of love shall be made stronger, never again to be severed.
Maybe there is something to this Christian stuff, Eddy thought to himself. Not only did this help soothe the pain of losing his friend, but offered hope for a better world, knowing he’d see Jonesy again, thank him again, and thank God for the second chance starting right now.
Thank you Jesus, that the sting of death has been forever broken by Your resurrection, so that by believing in You, we might have everlasting life. And remind us that Christian funerals are a joyful celebration of these glorious truths. Amen