Monday, February 05, 2007

the light side of funerals

Children have a knack for finding a way to bring joy into the most somber occasions. Case in point: funerals.
The last Saturday in January, we attended the funeral of William John Olson, who died a scant three hours after he was born. There were somewhere between twenty and thirty of us who turned out that morning: William's grandparents, uncles and aunts, and other relatives; and people like us, close friends of his grieving parents.
As children their age are wont to do, Evangeline and Rachel joined William's older brothers before the service and began gathering fallen pine cones for no other reason than to gather them. And as children will do, when they had all the pine cones they could carry, they started handing them out to make sure everybody else had one.
As I bent down to take mine, I commended Evangeline for her thoughtfulness in collecting the pine cones and asked if her she knew why that was so appropriate. As I explained, pine cones contain the seed of new life in them, and when you plant these seeds they begin to grow not just into trees, but into evergreen trees, a symbol of eternal life because they remain alive and green all year around, even when the other trees metaphorically die for the winter. And that of course is the hope we have: that although William had died, he had been born into eternal life through Christ.
Audra, William's mother, was amused by my spur-of-the-moment object lesson -- "You can do this with anything, can't you, Dave?" she asked -- but the best was yet to come. As everyone walked past William's grave and set a flower there, Evangeline cracked Audra up by placing not just her flower but a half-dozen or more pine cones on his grave.
Lesson learned.
As a footnote, as we were walking back to the car, Evangeline asked me if this had been the first funeral she had attended. Thinking she might have some questions about the nature or finality of death, or the injustice of an infant's death, I nodded and said quietly, "They're not much fun, are they?"
Said Evangeline, with the distaste only a child could muster: "It's better than being stuck inside a church for a wedding."
It was two minutes before I could stop laughing. Natasha has never been so ashamed of me in her life.

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