How many funerals have you been to that ended with a standing ovation? I went to one. It was for my neighbor Dale. He had fought and eventually lost a long battle with cancer. But his life had borne great fruit, touching many people. Dale was a man who loved God and served him humbly as a deacon in his church. I was struck by how everyone who spoke at his funeral talked about Dale in the present tense, as though he hadn’t passed away.
It wasn’t just a case of feeling his lingering influence; rather, most of those gathered believed Dale was still alive. In fact, the pastor who preached the sermon remarked how much he disliked hearing anyone described as “dead.” People die, of course, but the pastor reminded us that death is an event, not a destination. It’s the point at which we make the transition into another life—one that will last forever. The applause at the end of the funeral for this former college football player, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and deacon was given in honor of a life well lived and as a celebration of the life Dale is enjoying right now, face-to-face with the God he loves.
One of my neighbors had the privilege of witnessing the moment of Dale’s passing. His large extended family had gathered in his living room. She watched as they all were drawn to the bed the moment Dale died. Then they knelt down and began to sing. She told me it was the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed—to see this family’s reaction as their father and grandfather passed into heaven.
I won’t see Dale for a while, unless, of course, my time on earth is shorter than I imagine. But when I do see him, I hope God will welcome me into his peace with the same words I believe he has spoken to Dale: “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).