Surveying the tightly gathered group of people, I should have been grateful.
But I wasn’t.
A strange sense filled the air, and looking into the eyes of each person, it seemed as though I could read their thoughts.
But they could not read mine.
Gifts of various kinds filled the room, and I should have had an appreciation for them. After all, gifts cost money, sometimes money the giver does not have or maybe, does not even want to spend.
But I didn’t want them.
Tears flowed as hushed voices gave nice platitudes and even extended words of sympathy.
But I didn’t need them.
You see, today was my funeral. In life, I was many things — a son, a husband, a father, a successful businessman, a regular church attender, a part of monthly social functions, a Secret Santa once a year, a homeowner, and even held a private pilot’s license.
But did any of that matter?
Why were these people here? For a few fleeting moments, I contemplated the thoughts of each person present.
My parents were long gone, but for some strange reason I still felt their presence. In that moment, I knew that they had gone through what I was now facing. I cannot explain how I knew, but the costly gifts that my wife and I bestowed on them through the years meant nothing. They were actually thankful simply for the time we took out of busy schedules to go and visit them, even in the last year when they were confined to a nursing home.
My wife, dressed in black, had not one thought in her pretty head about the money in the bank. She did not care about how many houses or cars or amount of insurance that I had left for her. Her mind was engrossed with the thoughts that she had lost her best friend, her lover, her companion of almost fifty years, and that she would struggle to live a lonely life without me.
My children sat with their families in the next few rows. My daughters looking pretty, and my sons looking handsome, my grandchildren sat with them. Their thoughts were just as clear as those of my wife. They were fondly remembering the times I had taken off of work just to be with them. They didn’t remember how much I spent on each Christmas gift, even in the early years when my wife and I did not have a lot. However, they were reminiscing about the times we sat together on the floor laughing and putting together those myriad of puzzles or items that all lied when they said, “Minimal assembly required.”
Some of my colleagues were there, but interestingly, the ones who came fell into two distinct categories. The first small cluster spent my funeral wondering what they would have to do to take over my business accounts. Blackness surrounded them as they looked around trying to determine who their new competition might be. I wasted little time on that group.
However, there was another small cluster on the other side of the church aisle. I didn’t really think that I had made a huge impact on some of the people from a few of the departments who were represented.
I dutifully read each mind and realized that these people were there to simply extend a heart-felt thank you for the times I had helped them rise above the clouds that had long kept some of them earthbound. I recognized that I had helped each of this group to establish a new level of self-confidence, to push themselves towards a new level of greatness, but above all, to remember that family was more important than a job or a career.
The rest of those in attendance varied from those who were there for an ulterior motive or to be seen, while others were there because they remembered that I had been there to help encourage them in their time of need. Most of them I had forgotten about, but they had not. They remembered and it had changed their lives.
Contentment filled my mind as I knew that I had lived a life worth living. I had spent my years helping others. It was not my money or my possessions that really mattered. What truly made a difference was the fact that I had loved and was still loved.
Looking toward the front where my casket rested amid the flowers, I looked down upon my own face and body that had been racked with cancer for the last three years. Those days were done and I was thankful.
The moments quickly passed as the minister gave his last heartfelt words. The church where we had spent so much time learning to love God and others was a hallowed place. Marriages, dedications, and other funerals had filled the sanctuary with loving memories.
The time for me to depart was at hand. I would go to be with the Lord I had served for so many years both in the US and in other far-flung foreign lands. I had learned a long time to take care of the things that mattered. Now, I was able to see the results in perfect clarity.
The funeral director came with my sons and closed the lid upon my chest. Yet, no fear was present.
My name was being called and I heard a voice call out, “Well done, my faithful servant.”
Rest in peace.
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