Amazing grace

This week I attended the funeral of a relative with whom I was not particularly close. As the minister gave the eulogy, I found myself wondering if I was at the right funeral. The deceased was known in the family for his sharp tongue and the casual cruelty with which he wielded it. He was ruthlessly tyrannical with his closest relations and given to acting out of spite and apparent malice.

The minister spoke of a generous man who cared about his family and gave selflessly to the community. Indeed, I learned a great many things about him during the funeral: organizations to which he belonged, leadership positions he had held in the community, that he had once worked for NASA. I was amazed.

Granted, I had had as little to do with him as possible for the last thirty years, and a lot can happen to a person in that length of time. I found myself wishing I had known the man the minister was talking about, because he didn’t bear any resemblance to the unpleasant person I had pretty much avoided since high school.

I was especially moved when the minister gave thanks in prayer for this man’s life and the ways in which God was visible in it. By that point in the service, I was beyond incredulity and actually able to listen to the message in the minister’s words. Through mysterious grace, I was able to see this relative in a completely different light, perhaps even to see him, in some dim fashion, the way God might have seen him. And through that same miraculous grace, I was able at last to join the minister in giving thanks for this man and the curious ways in which the Spirit had worked through him.

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2 responses to “Amazing grace

  1. So glad you were able to learn from this, and come to appreciate him, for the things you didn’t know about. My first thought? Nobody is going to say mean things at someone’s funeral, but I happen to know of at least one where thinly-veiled resentment was expressed, and probably rightly so. But. The real lesson I got from this? Perhaps all the good you do won’t matter a bit if people can’t stand to be around you. Especially your family and loved ones. Why do we sometimes treat strangers better than we do family? Much has been written about that. But no cure yet proposed…

    • I wouldn’t say that I came to appreciate him (the entire service wasn’t more than 45-minutes) but I definitely have a different perspective on him, a perspective that, I must say, has more to do with God than with him. I didn’t expect to hear anything even remotely unflattering at the funeral — that’s not what funerals are about. But I truly never dreamed that anyone would be able to say inspiring things about him. From what I gathered, he treated friends and acquaintances far better than he treated immediate family. As you noted, it’s very sad that he alienated the people who loved him and spent the most time with him.

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