Friday, October 28, 2011
Truth and Love with Honors
I attended a very beautiful funeral today. It may seem odd, but I really love funerals, especially Mormon funerals which I find so uplifting and positive because of the strength of powerful faith that this life is not the end and there will be a glorious resurrection. This funeral also included military honors as the deceased was a Navy Veteran of World War II. It was not at a National Cemetery which sometimes are limited to abbreviated ceremonies due to budget cuts and increasing demands. The elderly Veterans who served their brother-in-arms today performed a very moving, patriotic, graveside service.
Funerals, for more than obvious reasons, are a time of intense emotion and challenge for family members. Things are not always, if ever, perfect in this world especially with family relationships. And death comes unscheduled. There is such a fine line to walk threading through the challenges of truth, love, honor and reality.
Some years ago I read Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead. It is science fiction, part of a trilogy but this volume stands well on its own, about a man who travels the universe to investigate the true life story of one who had died and then explain that person's life in absolute truth, including the negatives, but with the utmost charity. This is an ideal that rarely if ever is met in this world and the sort of thing we hope for even with fear and dread before the judgment seat of God.
Even Mormon funerals with all their positive optimism can be a challenge in threading that needle to honor the dead, console the family, and convey the hope of eternal life in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is tempting to overplay the positives of an individual's life on the honor side which can compromise the truth of the other aspects of their life's history which may not all be positive. And it wouldn't be right in the case of a troubled life to recount all the negatives either. There has to be that way to honor and love with truth and the promise of hope in the eternities.
We saw that today in a simple service. The bishop, in a light but truthful manner, told how both the son of the deceased and a family friend had told him in a cautionary sort of way that the deceased was "not a spiritual man." The bishop's response was, "He is now." The spiritual message was conveyed by the bishop, the family friend, and the deceased's son in each of their tributes, that this life is not the end. That the Lord's promise of salvation extends beyond this life full of sin and sorrow that can separate us from God. We have options to take advantage of priesthood power to seal families and reach across death to provide opportunities for their agency to choose the healing of Atonement through basic principles of faith and repentance. We can't judge others. Our role is to help provide opportunities for the Lord's work to come to pass.
The son in his heartfelt address with the spirit of the gospel and the Lord's eternal charity conveyed the positive teachings his father had conveyed to him: the importance of work; the value of education; and the love of family. I hope I can do as well if I am called upon someday to honor my own father.
Addendum, November 4, 2011:
Two tributes to add. First, my wife who inspired this piece by telling me to write it after we had talked a little on these subjects. Second, my good friend and brother-in-law who has been known on this blog as AnonymousD is the faithful son who spoke at his father's funeral. He is a very good friend and we have a lot in common or at least in understanding and respect for each other. We are only related tangentially as my wife is his wife's sister. They are the two sisters, out of the four, who are most similar in disposition and other ways (all good, of course). I still feel disinclined to use names directly on the blog although mine is available to be discovered. So I will keep referring to him as AnonymousD, but he means a lot more to me than that name can convey.