There are three texts that have been in my mind since my grandfather’s funeral service today. One, the morbidly funny Laurie Anderson line from “Gravity’s Angel”:
And at his funeral all his friends stood around looking said. But they were really thinking of all the ham and cheese sandwiches in the next room. And everybody used to hang around him. And I know why. They said: There but for the grace of the angels go I.
Because you know what: after a sleepless night, and the morning viewing, and the service, and walking out to the cemetery in the rain, and placing a flower on the casket, and walking back, I found myself frightfully hungry. So I got two ham salad sandwiches and listened to the guests reminisce about my Pop-Pop, and drank coffee. And I said: So. This is life reminding me that I’m still in it.
Quotation number 2: Also from Laurie Anderson, “World Without End”:
When my father died we put him in the ground
When my father died it was like a whole library
Had burned down. World without end remember me.
Because all day long I wanted to turn to him and ask a question about this relative, or that one, or about his life in Kinzers, or something about the house. And someone had taken all the books away.
The final quotation running through my head is a part of one of the verses that was read at the funeral. This version is from the NRSV (I Corinthians 15:35-57):
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen…
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
And really, if I didn’t learn anything at all from my grandfather, I learned to listen to the preacher, and the Bible, and chew over the theology, and argue about it, sometimes vehemently, and then to come back to it over and over again. But this much I know: we have planted my grandfather, but he continues to grow in us.