Good Grief

October 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

Respectful whispers brush across the church lobby. Hugs cling a little tighter than the norm. Sunday Best is slightly more prevalent than on a typical modern Sunday, even if the predominant color is not black like it would have been fifty years ago.

Family and friends have gathered to celebrate the life of my father, David Hines. A few moments before the official assembly, a disturbed murmur of horrified gasps ripples across the room.

“David Hines fell in the baptistery!”

A moment of stunned silence follows.

“I thought they didn’t bring the casket here.” A friend’s undertone reflects her shocked disbelief.

Stifled laughter flutters through the family. Not dead David, grandkid David. Where else would a ten-year-old boy who arrived thirty minutes early for a funeral be but playing near the baptistery?

I go to see for myself. Sure enough, there stands my nephew, khaki pants and plaid shirt darkened and plastered to his wiry frame, a puddle forming around his loafers. My embarrassed but resigned sister-in-law hustles him off on a frantic Wal-Mart trip for dry clothes.

Ten years later, that story highlights our reminiscing. Everyone enjoys a hearty laugh over the spectacle, including a semi-sheepish David.

Last week, our church laid another David to rest, a brother we all agreed was a “mighty man of God.” Sunday morning after the funeral, we took several moments to share memories. Numerous memorable hospital visits brought appreciative tears. Reflections on Dave’s unique eccentricities brought poignant chuckles. We sang his silly song. We wept and laughed at his love for kids.

At the funeral of Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 NIV). Even knowing he would conquer death, Jesus shared his friends’ sorrow. I wonder if laughter shuffled through the crowd when Martha protested the stink of opening the grave. I wouldn’t be surprised. Several stories show Jesus’ sense of humor and comic timing. I love knowing He participates in all our emotions—the joys and tears found in the everyday vagaries of life.

When teaching English, I offer “good grief” as a prime example of an oxymoron. But as I reflect on funerals, silly songs, and sopping wet boys, I see that through our faith, God makes good grief a reality. “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be o God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV).

Comment Prompt: Any funereal yet funny moments you can share?

About Jane Thornton

Jane Thornton, English teacher, wife, and mom of two almost grown children, strives to break free of the automatic boring label attached to those roles. Her two suspense novels eagerly await a willing publisher, and her articles search for inspiration in the humor and tears of life.
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7 Responses to “Good Grief”
  1. Susan Dollyhigh says:

    I love this devotional! I believe God’s grace allows those moments of laughter when we’re in the midst of grief. Thank God for “good grief!”
    Susan D.

  2. Lee King says:

    This is such a grest story to tell over and over again at family reunions or weddings or wherever families gather. It reminds me of the stories we still tell in our family about our nephew Tom Bill. Wasn’t it Tom Bill, Bart and Wes that tried to baptize the cat in Mamma’s rain barrel? I love your stories and hope you will keep telling them.
    and I love you,
    aunt Lee

  3. Margo Carmichael says:

    Remember when my new cellphone rang in our writers’ meeting and I told it to hush because I didn’t know how to turn it off? It gets worse. My husband and I were in a funeral and a very dignified man in a black suit stood at the podium to reminisce about the deceased, his *daughter.* He looked so proper and serious that I realized I’d better turn off my phone and take no chances at a mishap. Still not very adept at even that, in the process I somehow clicked on the name of the last person I had called. My husband. Seated beside me. His phone shrilled in the church. He grabbed it, peered at it, and showed it to me, glowering. My name. I bowed my head and my shoulders shook with laughter. I could only hope everyone else thought it was grief. Good grief!

  4. Okay, this isn’t real, but whenever I think of laughing at a funeral, I always remember the episode of Mary Tyler Moore when Chuckles the Clown died. (He was trampled by an elephant during a parade, it was very tragic.) Stoic Mary, who had chided everyone about making jokes about his death prior to the funeral, couldn’t control her own laughter during the service. It is very funny…

  5. Hally Franz says:

    This is so true, Jane! Thankfully, God gives us those funny moments amidst times of sorrow. He knows they are needed, and will make memories of those bitter-sweet times. Thanks, Jane!

  6. julie marx says:

    No funny anecdotes on my end, but I did laugh at your post. My daughter would have been the one falling into the baptistery. Thanks, Jane.

  7. Lee Carver says:

    At this moment I don’t remember the stories told at the funerals of my mother and father, but I know they were told by the minister in his homily of each one, ten years apart. We knew they were with God. They would be missed, but there was absolutely no fear for them. The Carvers were pranksters, so I told a story on myself at my father-in-law’s funeral, one that Dad was still teasing me about the week before he died. Laughter at a funeral is important. It helps remind us that we are not in deep mourning. This is not a trajedy. Not if our hope is in Jesus Christ.

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