Ponderings with Doug – June 1, 2018


I finished a funeral on Saturday. I buried a 24-year-old young lady. I don’t like burying young people. She was one course from completing her undergraduate degree. She had a career picked out and a job waiting. It was going to be an honor to know her and watch her mature and become a responsible adult. I was planning a celebration for her mother for graduating her daughter off the family payroll. I wondered if I would eventually officiate at her wedding. None of it was to be. She had surgery a couple of weeks ago. Everything went normally and well. She was recovering at home.

Her mother went in to check on her at 7 p.m. she was fine. At 9 p.m. mom went to check again and she was dead.

There is no gentle way to say that. I don’t want to be gentle because death is anything but. Death robs us of those we love. Death stomps on our plans for the future. Death haunts and hunts us. The Bible tells us that each of us have an appointment with death.

I heard those dreadful words at the visitation.

“Doesn’t she look natural?”

No, sentimental person, she looks dead because she is dead. There is nothing natural about a 24-year-old in a casket. I will save my list of things you don’t say to grieving families for another article. Suffice it to say, you don’t need to say anything! I’m sure there is a law some place about practicing pastoral theology without a license. I give you permission to be present without trying to be profound.

Later in the afternoon, I was on my front porch in the swing pondering this whole terrible ordeal. I was saying a bunch of prayers for the family of this young lady. I replayed the day and the funeral. I must have been out there quite a while. My bride came looking for me. She asked, “Whatcha doing?” I told her I was pondering the meaning of life and struggling with some existential angst when people don’t live as long as I think they should.

She sat down in the swing with me.

We were swinging and counting cars. That is about the only entertainment in Gibsland. You count the cars headed north and the ones headed south and determine which is the preferred direction of travel in the allotted time. Or you listen for the train whistle and try to figure out when the train will be in downtown Gibsland.

I was doing something like that. I looked under the oak trees in the front yard in time to see a firefly. Growing up we called them lightning bugs. I told my wife about my citing. She was not convinced. “Look under the oak tree.” She saw it too! I learned later that fireflies didn’t travel of New Mexico, so my bride never collected them as a child.

We saw one firefly and it was an LED firefly. That is the brightest back-end of firefly I have ever seen. It was awesome to watch. It reminded me of the Magnolia trees across the street from my grandmother’s home and making holes in the jar lids so we could catch fireflies. The firefly brought me joy.

Then I realized that God was answering some of those prayers I was praying.

Life is pretty much like that, we exist someplace between fireflies and funerals. There is sadness in living, but there is awesome joy. I need to improve my joy sight. Bad stuff is real and painful. It won’t be long until your immunity will run out and it will happen to you too.

The joy of life is given to all. It is in abundance all around us. Have you learned to see it?

I no longer want to catch fireflies, watching them and knowing they are from God satisfies my soul.

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