Last weekend I attended two funerals – they could not have been more different from one another. Saturday I went to the funeral of a 50-something woman. There was not an empty seat in the church – pews were packed, extra seats in the aisles were filled. It was standing room only. The woman who had died had everything planned to a T. She had breast cancer, so she had thought a lot about her death and her celebration of life. This funeral was definitely a “going-home” celebration. Friends got up to talk about their relationship with her…they made us all laugh and cry. We all learned knew things about our friend…pieces which we could hold onto. She reminded us each to live…not to live as if we are slowly inching closer to death. But to live, live until the day we just die.
My friend was a frequent lay assistant at church…she was an amazing “pray-er”. One of the things she always said in her prayers – “We stand in awe of the power of prayer.” Each time she would recite that, I would think, “Yes, yes we do.” That day was awe-filled. It was assurance filled. It was couched in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It felt as if the sting of death was there…yet, we knew it wasn’t.
And then….the Resurrection. Easter Sunday. It was sunny and bright – a glorious day for new life. Another funeral was not on the agenda, but as I tucked in my middle son and checked on his gecko, which had been sick, I knew something was wrong. The gecko was cold and stiff – and, my baby had just snuggled into bed. I had to tell him though, because I knew he would find him in the morning.
Oh, the tears, the sobbing. I was crying as hard and he was. His brothers, his dad, and I all traipsed out to the garden for an unplanned funeral in the dark. As we walked to the garden, Jackson said to me, “Stripe (the gecko) died on the same day Jesus came back to life.” Oh, my heart ached – more than I thought possible for the loss of a gecko. I just said, “Oh Jackson, I know.” I didn’t know what else to say. But Jackson knew…because then he said, “But, at least we know that Stripe is with God now.” I thought, “Oh yes, Jackson. At least we know that.”
We are promised that!
So, we dug a hole and we placed Stripe into the dark ground and covered him up. Jackson knelt down on the cold, dark earth and bowed his little head over the gecko. I whispered to Jackson, “Do you want to say a prayer?” He shook his head “No,” – he wanted me to say it. The words, the prayer – it just came. I was crying, Jackson was crying. And as soon as the prayer started, his brothers and dad were crying. There’s something about prayer. There’s something to be in awe of…a power that we have no claim on.
His dad said later, “That was a damn good prayer for a lizard.” Hmmm…the words just came. It was God, I know it.
That’s when I made the connection to the funeral the day before. The funerals were so different. One well-planned, one make-shift. One packed full of people, one 5 people total. One in a beautiful, sunlit church, one in the chilly, dark of the night. One for a woman, one for a tiny gecko.
And yet, they both held prayer and love in common. They held the promise of the resurrection in common. They held the assurance of God’s presence in common. A prayer in time of need holds healing and grace, power and gentleness. A prayer in time of need reminds us that there is something awe-some whispering about in the corners of our lives.