Is it really better to go to a funeral than a party?

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OK, let’s be honest, attending a funeral is usually not high on our list of things to do as no one enjoys saying goodbye especially when death is unexpected.  However, we are told in the Bible that it’s better to go to a funeral than a party. Why?

Attending a funeral has a way of refocusing our attention on what is really important in life. A funeral allows one to contemplate their own death and whether they are prepared to meet God (Romans 2:6-1114:10). Also, when we hear the testimony of a life well lived we tend to reexamine our own life as we each have a dash between our birth date and death date.  This dash symbolizes our entire lives—the time we have to create meaning for God, our families, our communities, and ourselves.

At funerals I tend to examine my life as I’m responsible for what I’m doing with it.  We’re told our days are fleeting, life is temporary, and our length of time is not promised. Death is certain for each of us and only God knows the number of our days.

Job 14:5 You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.

This year I’ve attended four funerals or, more accurately, “life celebrations.”  Honestly, I can say that these four men all profoundly touched the lives of so many and each left behind a beautiful legacy.

Back in March we received the incredibly sad news that our friend’s son was killed in an auto accident.  On December 13th he would have been 25, the same age as our eldest daughter which made his death harder.  Josh had recently graduated from Wheaton, had a promising career, and was newly married. The death of someone so young is so perplexing.   When I think of Josh I will always remember his smile and zest for life.  I left the memorial service realizing that death can happen at any moment to anyone of us and at any age.   A recording of Josh singing I Can Only Imagine that was played at the service providing peace, hope, and encouragement for those of us left behind, as Josh was in awe by the presence of Jesus.

In July, my friend Stacy lost her in-laws in a tragic car accident.  Jon and I felt lead to attend her father in-laws funeral to show our support and love for her.  While we had never met Ron Buck we both left the service saying we wish we had known him as others shared about this wonderful Godly man.

On December 5th, Ronnie Smith was gunned down during his morning jog near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He and his wife moved overseas about two years ago to teach high school chemistry and to be a blessing to the Libyan people.

I first met Ronnie about five years ago as he was a teaching leader at our church. He was passionate about teaching and equipping those who took his classes.  What I will remember him for is the passion for which he had for memorizing God’s word.  The most impactful sermon I ever heard was given by Ronnie incorporating scripture from Genesis to Revelation reminding me of God’s History of Redemption.  A beautiful table book was complied and completed in 2010 to accompany the second time Ronnie preached The History of Redemption, before heading overseas to teach and love others.  This book is a beautiful keepsake and the perfect gift to give to others plus a tangible way to support Ronnie’s family.  I am thankful that our lives intersected and for the wonderful legacy that Ronnie leaves behind.  My prayers are with Ronnie’s wife Anita and his son.  A special fund has been set up to support his family in the untimely death of their husband and father.

On December 10th, Michael Adams succumbed to his two year battle with cancer.  He lived in our neighborhood and lived life fully with more optimism and hope than many people I know.   Michael always made time to talk and was interested in what you had to say as well as interesting to listen to.  I, like most people, will miss seeing him ride his bike in the neighborhood with his huge grin.  It broke my heart when I saw his wife and four children (15, 12, 7, 7) at the funeral as they will greatly miss him.  He requested that family and friends ride their bikes to the church plus wear his favorite color green or a bike jersey.

Last month I read When Will the Heaven Begin?: This Is Ben Breedlove’s Story. This is an incredibly inspirational and heartrending memoir about the life of Ben Breedlove who died on Christmas day of a heart attack at the young age of 18.  I’ve known Ben and his family for years and his story is amazing. The week before his death he posted a remarkable video, This is my Story describing the peace and bright lights he’d found the other times his heart stopped. Ben makes it clear that death is not something to be feared. This book offers peace and hope in knowing that someday we will see those who have preceded us in death.

Psalm 39:4 “O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

So indeed more wisdom and insight is gleaned when attending a funeral verses a party. Since we all must die, one is usually faced with their own mortally when attending the funeral for family or friends.  Are you living with no regrets? Will you be proud to stand before your Maker? Christmas is only a week away so remember Jesus Christ came to earth so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. He also came to die and shed His blood as a substitute in our place.

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In Loving Memory of George Wilson “Will” Fortenberry (1949-2012)

Jon’s “big brother”, friend, uncle, and hero  (1971 at Tulane Stadium)

Click this link to view other Miscellaneous Photos of Will Fortenberry

Last Thursday we received the sad and unexpected news that Jon’s uncle, Will Fortenberry, died suddenly of a heart attack. Needless to say it shocked many of us as Will was only 62 and the youngest of his siblings with Jon’s mom being in the middle of the five children.

One views death as a natural order of progression where usually the eldest passes first and the youngest last.   However, who are we to know the exact time that we shall meet our Maker?

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 

Thankfully Will knew Jesus and lived a full life.

Jon is twelve years younger than Will, which is the same age spread between our eldest Caryn and her younger sister Cayley.  So I understand the sadness Jon feels as Will was like an older brother to Jon. Jon looked up to Will and viewed him as a hero.   When we got married it was only natural that Will would be a groomsman. After all, Jon was a groomsman in Will’s wedding.

We have shared several anniversary celebrations together with the first being our rehearsal dinner and their 10th. Then I recall our 5th and their 15th in New Orleans at Antoine’s and Pat O Brien’s.  Lastly,  for our 20th and their 30th we were in Hawaii with my in-laws who celebrated their 45th.  Such great times together.  An event I fondly recall was Will’s company Christmas party in 1983 where we had to dress up like punk rockers.  It was such a crazy fun time. I found a photo to prove it (be sure to click on misc. photo link above).

Thankfully, I have many sweet memories of Will that I will treasure all my life.  I will miss his smile and humor.  Will, like all his siblings, added life, laughter and loudness to the Fortenberry family gatherings.  I thank God for the gift that his life was to those privileged to know him – myself included.  Rest in peace.

My condolences and prayers to Will’s wife Catherine, and children Kristen and Timothy.  He loved you dearly.