“It is better to go to a house in mourning than to a house party, because that is everyone’s destiny; and the living should take it to heart.” -Ecclesiastes 7:2
Next week my family and I are going to Wisconsin for my great-grandfather’s funeral. His name was Jack Finch, he was 90. He was a veteran of World War II, a teacher, ran a camp for kids and loved his family. He was also loved by his family. It will be wonderful to see the branches of my extended family next week as we gather in Kenosha. It will be good to see them smile, laugh and cry. It will appropriately be a house of mourning, and celebration of life.
I do not have much experience with death, but have brushed against it. I was in Norman, OK last weekend when we were hit by a tornado. The house I was in was directly in the path to the F2, but it didn’t touch us. It destroyed a lot of the area around us, but we were fine. In May 2010 my car was picked up by another tornado as I was driving home. I climbed out the driver’s window with only minor scratches.
We are a culture that may not necessarily want to live forever, but we certainly don’t want to die. We are a giant house party – a people of the feast. I hope that we enjoy our time here while it lasts, as all of life is a gift to us, but I also hope we spend time pressing into our own mortality. We can’t hide away from, or marginalize death. It is coming for us all. But perhaps if we can begin to see our lives in light of death rather than in its shadow, we will pursue relationships with more urgency, love people more deeply, and commit to people in community. We are not meant to live in isolation. Isolation creates a living death. It is better for those who have already perished than to live this life in isolation. I look forward to my grandfather’s funeral, because the house of mourning brings people together, and allows hope for reconciliation and community. It is a gift.