- Rodney Lee Mills
What Kind of Funeral Will You Have?
It’s inevitable. The numbers are stacked against us. Did you know that close to 150,000 people die every day! The truth is, our days are numbered and one out of one people will die. So two important questions come to mind, “How will you be remembered?” and “Where will you spend eternity?” Based on my experience, the kind of funeral you will have gives us insight to both.
In the United States military, it is always encouraged that we volunteer for many opportunities to expand our experiences and to give back. So as a young lieutenant in the Air Force, I jumped at the chance to serve on our base funeral detail. Our team was tasked with traveling to the surrounding communities to give proper respects to the men and women who served our country honorably. As the lead, I was responsible for handing the folded American flag to the next of kin and stating, “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful Nation, I present this flag to you in honor of the service of your loved one.”
One day, we were tasked with two details. There was enough time in between to make both funerals so we wre assigned both. As we set out to our first funeral, it became very obvious that we were lost. Somewhere in the middle of Georgia, an unmarked white government van carrying a funeral detail aimlessly drove up and down the backwoods of Georgia. After going in circles, I finally ask them to stop the van so I could ask for directions. We pulled up to a secluded home where an older black lady was hanging her garments on a clothes line. I said to the lady, “Excuse me ma’am, do you know where the cemetery is located?” She turned to me and looked me up and down and said, “The colored one or the white one?” I’m pretty sure my face said it all. I turned to my team and asked, “Is he white or black?” They mouthed the word “white.” I passed it onto her where she proceeded to give us directions. Like a common day GPS, her directions led us exactly to the “white” cemetery. We rushed to get set up as the funeral was just seconds away from starting. I didn’t even have time to speak to the funeral director. Although our team was flustered, we composed ourselves so that we could professionally and properly honor the deceased. Composed however wouldn’t be the word I would use for the emotions expressed during the funeral. The wails and cries were almost unbearable to be around. People kept screaming “why” as the pastor conducted the ceremony. The testimonies were also filled with regret and opportunities missed. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was relieved to leave such a heartbroken place.
We headed off to the next funeral and the trip there was a lot smoother. We got there in time and to my surprise, the environment was very uplifting. I looked at my detail in somewhat disbelief. It was as if we arrived at a birthday party not a funeral. People were laughing and hugging one another as people shared stories and special moments of the deceased. I expected the pastor’s remarks to be filled with Scripture and spiritual revelations but EVERYONE was sharing encouraging words and Scripture as they spoke of the life this person lived. I actually wished I could have met this person when they were still alive. The stark contrast between the two funerals really made me reflect on my own life.
These questions came to me and I want to pose them to you now. What will your funeral be like? Who will show up at your funeral? Will anyone show up? What will they say? What are the things you will regret not doing or saying prior to leaving this world? Where will you spend eternity? These are very important questions that unfortunately, we don’t even consider until it is too late.
Hebrews 9:27-28 states, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” The great thing about this promise is that Jesus did it all and stood in our place. All that is required is that we believe this truth and accept Him as our Lord and Savior. It is our faith in this truth that lets us know where we will spend eternity.
After you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I want to encourage you to think about the other questions I posed above and take the steps to make your funeral a celebration of the life you lived and the blessings you left behind.
In closing, Ecclesiastes 7:1 states, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” I hope that the answers to the questions, “How will you be remembered” and “Where will you spend eternity” are answers you can live with...in life and after death.