Dad died of a coronary in the small town our parents chose for retirement. Our sister invited our mother to come to live with them after the funeral. Our mother went to be with the Lord fifteen years later and was interred in our family cemetery within our purlieus. We decided to exhume our dad from retirement cemetery to be transported and laid to rest next to our mother. I was asked by my family to deliver words of homecoming and home-going at the graveside service of his reinterment. I would like to share those words of welcome repatriation here. ~g.w.
“You have been a shelter, Lord, to every generation…to every generation.”
(Read I Corinthians 15:35-58)
We gather together here on this day to celebrate the occasion of Dad’s homecoming. Upon the celebration of Mom and Dad being brought together once again, to lay at rest alongside each other. We say “at rest” because many times in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul refers to physical death, for the believer, as being asleep in the Lord but very much alive in Christ.
I believe it’s altogether fitting and proper that we do this on two levels:
The first being that Mom and Dad were married and committed to each other, and to no other, for fifty-three years until the time of Dad’s departure from this physical world by what is commonly referred to as death. Mom was committed to Dad by marriage and to no other. Dad was dedicated to Mom by marriage and to no other.
Although it was far from a storybook marriage and fraught with many cracks and fissures, their commitment stood the test of a lifetime. It represented a love that went beyond romance or any apparent physical reward that is so sought after in relationships of today’s culture.
Their commitment to each other was based on just that: promise. Mom told me she remained with Dad through it all for the sake of us kids and for the purpose of her understanding of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. She held to the instruction of the Lord that a wife is to remain with her husband as long as he is willing to be married to her. And as for her children, well, she said she never doubted Dad’s love for and commitment to raising us kids to the best of his ability, and she didn’t want to deprive us of having our dad in our lives.
And Dad told me: well, Dad told me nothing. Dad never discussed with me his relationship with Mom or his thinking about marriage and commitment. I had to observe Dad throughout his life to get a hint into his thinking about this.
I remember an image that stays with me to this day. It was a simple thing, but it seems to represent for me Dad’s commitment to Mom even more than his displays of affection for Mom when we were little kids growing up.
It was when Mom returned from an extended visit to Texas in the early 1980s. Mom extended her visit there, and Dad became concerned that Mom might stay there, possibly initiating a separation from Dad. And maybe at that time, it crossed Mom’s mind too. But Mom did return and after her return, at some time shortly after, she and Dad came to the bookstore where I was manager at the time to visit while I was working. As they talked to me and as they browsed through the books, I noticed that Dad was holding Mom’s hand. And when they left the store, Dad was again holding Mom’s side. That display of public affection by Dad impacted me very much. It was so unlike him to display affection openly.
I don’t think to this day I can put into words how or why this made such an impression on me, but it goes directly to my heart. And it has everything to do with Dad’s commitment to, and love for Mom. No, Dad never shared with me his thoughts about his commitment to Mom in words, but over my lifetime of observing him, I could never imagine him with any other woman.
Even in his troubled romance with his mistress “Alcohol” that caused Mom, and us, so much pain, I still could never imagine him with another woman. Dad wasn’t perfect by any means, but his love and commitment to Mom, and to us, wasn’t diminished by any other persons in this world.
So this is the meaning of our gathering here today on one level.
But it is also fitting and proper we do this on a second level. That is one of spiritual symbolism that takes place here on this occasion.
An allegory of separation and reconciliation. Separation and reunification.
From Genesis chap. 3 to the last verse in Revelation, the whole bible story is of God’s plan of reconciling His people to Himself. A home-going or homecoming of His elect. Those who He placed into his family and their placing committed belief into His Son, the Lord Christ Jesus. Those who are born ‘not of natural descent, nor of human decision or husbands will, but born of God’ He gives the right to become children of God. These are those who received Him and believe in Him with commitment and allegiance.
From the Christian’s birth to death, it is God’s purpose to reconcile us to Him, and to develop us into the likeness of His Son, that we may be with Him here and hereafter when He calls us home.
The three stages of life begin in the womb, where He prepares a physical body for us that we may survive and be mobile in this material world. From the time we are born, it is said we begin a journey to the grave. But the time from birth to death has an exceedingly high purpose to it in God’s plan of redemption. And that purpose is to know God and our relationship with Him and to develop that relationship as he uncovers the character of our soul. It is God’s purpose and good pleasure to work in us ‘to will and to act according to His good purpose.’ And He calls us to participate with Him in doing this work.
Such work He does in each of us is one of personal design for each, but one that fits us into His overall plan of community and family. This design for each is according to His sovereign will, grace and layout as He sees fit. When this individual work is complete, according to His sovereign plan, He graduates us to depart this physical world to be with Him in His dwelling place.
He explains to us in the gospel of John chap. 14 “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may also be.” And if He is preparing a place for us, it just stands to reason that He is making us ready for that place at the same time. When He determines He has equipped us enough according to His sovereign plan, we are brought to and received by Himself that we may be with Him where He is. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it in II Corinthians 5:4, “…to be further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.” This is the third and final phase of life for us according to His sovereign design and will.
So we get an unfolding picture of our journey in this life, according to God’s word, that this life is really only a shadow of life, a preparation for life, in comparison to the eternal life He has planned for us and is preparing for us. This is the reason in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul states “We do not look at the things which are seen (with physical eyes), but the things which are not seen (with physical eyes). For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
I believe, and I know in my heart, that when the Lord completed His work in Mom according to His sovereign plan, He came and received her to be with Him where He is, and she departed this physical realm.
And I believe in my heart that the Lord completed work in Dad. It’s my considered position that Dad had a relationship with the Lord when He departed this world too. This I base on nuances of the scriptures, on conversations I had with Dad, and on believing God at His word as I see His grace and mercy grow beyond our full comprehension as it is unfolded throughout the scriptures.
Now we have brought about, and completed here, the reunification of Mom and Dad to rest alongside each other, as their physical bodies sleep in the Lord.
And just so, the Good Lord will bring about our own reunification with Him in His own good and perfect time.
Our most gracious and Almighty Heavenly Father:
On this occasion of our bringing Dad to rest alongside Mom until that Day You bring the completion of our salvation and those who sleep shall rise in Christ, we thank You so very much how often you see the desires of our heart and You, in Your sovereign grace and loving-kindness, work to bring those desires to completion. We are reminded at this time how You, in Your faithfulness, will bring about and complete the good work that You began in us. And we ask that as You work to that end, You would help us to remain faithful in coming alongside You to participate with You right up to the end of the journey and course, You also set for us.
We thank You for each other as a family as well as being family in Christ Jesus, our Savior. And we thank You for affording us time to be together during this time on this occasion. But most of all we thank You for our salvation through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ in Whose Name we pray…amen
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:24-26