We watched the live-stream funeral of my husband's only paternal uncle who died in Adelaide aged 94 of ... old age. From the quality of the video and the long list of recorded memorial services (indexed by names of the deceased) it seems the funeral homes have swiftly stepped up to the challenges of COVID restrictions on public assembly to provide a professional online service.
This uncle was a lifetime Christian man of memorable character. During the service, his children and grandchildren spoke calmly and warmly of his dignity, kindness, generosity, love, moderation, faith, wisdom, diligence, humility... a complete list of the fruits of the Spirit as it turned out. We know this assessment was not just due to the ethical rule “Only speak well of the dead”.
We mused about the relatively young age of all those who spoke and then realised the obvious reason—that he had outlived all his contemporaries. Apart from his wife of comparable age, no-one who knew him during his early life would still be alive. This is evidence of a very long life, of course, but also a reminder that with age comes the loss of all our original relationships bar one… our relationship with God, who says “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb 13:5).
Funerals punctuate our lives, usually with increasing frequency, as mandatory and compelling opportunities to consider the miracle of life, the inevitability of death, and the essence of what really matters. For the rest of the day we thought more reflectively, interacted more tenderly, and took our son and his girlfriend out for a restaurant dinner (also in order to spend some money at local businesses post-COVID shutdown).
The sequence of proverbs about virtue and reputation at the end of life are as relevant now as they were around 3000 years ago:
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death, than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecc 7:1-4)