It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
“There is nothing like a good funeral!”
Said no one ever! Rarely do we sit around and remember just how good it was to be at a funeral.
“It sure was good to see ole’ Uncle Teafister lying in that casket with that same ole’ look on his face. And how sweet it was to see Aunt Sugar (pronounce: Ain’t Sugah) just a’ weepin’ and a’ carryin’ on. Good times!”
No. It seems wrong to even make light of such. If you have an Uncle Teafister or Aunt Sugar, please accept my apologies. Trust me, having lost my mom to cancer at age 5, my dad to medical complications at age 8, all of my grandparents as a young man and my oldest brother who raised me to cancer when I was in my early 40’s, I know how ‘not funny’ funerals are. Plus, I still remember that old childhood favorite, “Never laugh when the hearse goes by or you may be the next to die.” We sure don’t want to die but neither do we like to even witness the death of others. Funerals are, by definition, not fun events.
And now the “yet”.
Yet, in true Solomonic fashion, the Teacher points out the irony of the obvious. It really is better to attend a funeral than a party banquet. Mourning with friends is actually better than celebrating with them. Shedding tears actually serves more good than dancing. You see, one can attend a party and never once be confronted with mortality and eternity. Oh, I guess a few people have probably danced or drank themselves almost to death at a party and considered their life’s end; however, those thoughts just don’t come naturally when people are happy, the drink is flowing and the dance floor is crowded. Nope. We don’t think about such when we are partying, nor am I advocating that we should. A party is definitely a ‘this world’ affair, at least for now.
At a funeral, when we celebrate the life of one who is now dead; mortality, eternity and other significant weighty matters come to mind. All living creatures face the same end.
Physical death. There’s no way out.
My childhood friend often argued that both death and taxes were unavoidable. Nope. Only death. Taxes can be shirked and consequences reaped here. Death cannot be and the consequences that follow death are for eternity. One thinks about such things at a funeral when people mourn the loss of a friend or relative or even a stranger for that matter. Looking upon someone who has passed causes us to think about our own passing. We are reminded that it will happen to us. And, as Stymie so eloquently shared in the theological classic, Little Rascals, “Death comes unexpectedly.” Honestly, it’s probably why so many people say they hate funerals. The event just hits too close to home and we don’t know when it will be us.
Death may be unexpected but it will arrive. We would do well to honor this proverb from Scripture and join others when they mourn because of death. In these moments, our eyes are often opened to the salient aspects of this existence and our hearts are often softened to eternal solutions. Death may not be a choice but eternal life is. God has given us the self dignity of choosing Him and thus choosing life forever. Only One man has ever defeated death and, by so doing, made a way for us all to escape the once eternal nature of death. While we were yet sinners, Jesus Christ died and was resurrected so that we might be also.
Join someone at a funeral and think on such things. You may just find yourself being thankful for a wake and whistling a dirge. Father God makes even funerals good.