“Now choose life, so that your children may live . . .” – Deuteronomy 30:19
I am of an age, I’m afraid, where attending funerals has become all too frequent, as has reading the obituary columns become part of my daily routine, not only in search of people I might know, but as the old joke goes, to check and see if my own name happens to appear there. It is all part of the life cycle I suppose.
As it may seem like a morbid topic to write about, obituaries and funerals, allow me to be a little more specific. The ones I am referring to are people who have lived full, rich lives, not those tragic instances that seem to occur way too often among the young and innocent. Like everyone else, I can’t get my arms around those events either, and often find myself railing at God about why such things happen.
Rather, I’m speaking about people like Shirley, the mother of one of our good friends, and a beloved friend of ours as well, and distinctively one of the funniest human beings I have ever known, with a sense of humor that, though laced with sarcasm, would have you rolling with laughter. Few were those who escaped her taunts and gibes, nor were many quick enough to respond with a clever comeback. In fact, I would list among my best days those rare occasions when I was able to get one over on Shirley. Touché!
Yet, Shirley was also one of the kindest, most caring, hospitable, and loving people I have ever known, and a person of deep faith. As a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother she was second to none, loving her family deeply, including her late husband of whom she adoringly spoke frequently. When she passed away a few years ago a large crowd gathered at the church for her funeral service. And while it was certainly a reverent occasion as it should have been, neither was it solemn. In fact, laughter filled that church like I had never witnessed at any funeral service, as one Shirley story was told after another. And believe me, there were plenty to go around.
“I have set before you life and death,” Moses instructed the Israelites toward the end of his life, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God.” Shirley chose life and lived it to the full, a gift to all of us who had the good fortune of crossing paths with her – taunts and gibes and all.