Good Friday sucked. The original one was filled with brutality, torture, confusion, doubt, guilt, fear, and oppressive grief. My Good Friday began in a cemetery in a military chapel beside one of those massive fields with their row after row of tidy white grave markers of veterans.
The seats in the chapel were full, as were all of the aisles and all of the perimeter space in the room. Some people were still outside the doors, unable to get in. I think everyone jumped at the first firing of the rifles of the 21 gun salute by the honor guard. There were sniffles during the playing of the bagpipes, but not a dry eye to be found when the honor guard folded the American flag and the soldier kneelt, presenting it to the grieving mother, my dear friend.
It was heck of way for me to return to public speaking after all of these years on the sidelines. The young man (31 years old) was tragically killed in a one car accident, leaving a four-year-old daughter behind. Ironically, his dad was killed in a similar manner a few short years ago.
I was Andy’s pastor. His parents were our best friends and our most faithful supporters during my years as a pastor. I used to take Andy and his brother to school, along with my kids. Our families were intertwined as we knew each other’s children, parents, and grandchildren.
Andy and I met together at a local coffee shop several times in the last few years since his dad died. I liked him, believed in him, and enjoyed his enthusiasm for life. His faith in Christ had followed him through life’s ups and downs and I learned he prayed with the same honesty and enthusiasm that he put into the rest of life.
Andy was a totally enthusiastic young man who was completely engaged in life.
I spoke of the grief we were all feeling and then said, “but Sunday is coming” borrowing a reference from the old Tony Campolo sermon. My voice broke and I couldn’t speak for a moment. Then I contrasted the grief of Friday with the surprising hope of the Sunday that changed everything.
We made our way back to ancient VFW Hall/lounge/museum in the city to have a proper celebration of Andy’s life. The hall was nearly as overcrowded as the chapel. We ate Andy’s favorite foods, fried rice, Oreo cookies, and chocolate ice cream. Everyone had been told to dress down because Andy loved wearing holey jeans.
The stories of Andy’s enthusiasm and willingness to take on new pursuits were often hilarious. It was an amazing collection of humanity in that old, sweltering room; hunting buddies, band mates, work friends, and family. It was a group of people that only Andy could bring together.
After some eating and some stories, I spoke at this the strangest (and most appropriate) memorial service ever. It was a party. After the party, I was drained.
My heart went out to my dear friend, Debbie (who has also passed away very recently) and her children, Amanda and Nathan, her mom, Marge and so many others. I cannot imagine their sense of loss. But, at least we did this up right with an Andy-style party.
But Sunday is coming!
Everything is not all better. Grief is a process that we must go through.
Jesus was not much of one for religion. He loved hanging out with the riff-raff. He lived a life that brought light to dark and hopeless corners of humanity and invited us to do the same. He talked about giving up on trying to be good and how he loved us just as we are.
Then when it looked like all hope was lost, he was busy defeating the last enemy, death, for all of us, and that set up one heck of a family reunion.
Thank God! It’s Sunday!