Words that I have used at funerals are words that come to me now. Funerals (I’ve done about 400 hundred since coming to First Baptist) are about finding ways to say goodbye. So, after announcing my retirement a couple of Sundays ago, I’m thinking a lot about those words. I’ve gotten a few cards already from church youth and I tear up reading them. So, in one of my last articles, I want to quote words from others that have meant a lot to me, words that I have used in many funerals. Here goes:
“All the hellos I have ever met have had something in common. They have all been carrying something out of sight. The something that is hidden behind every hello is a goodbye. Every hello that has ever been spoken has had a goodbye tucked away somewhere, deep inside, waiting for some moving day or some graduation day or some retiring or relocating or dying day, some eventual, inevitable someday when the goodbye that was hidden in the hello will find its way out into the open.
That is just the unalterable, inescapable nature of life. In the entire history of the world, there has never once been a hello that wasn’t carrying a goodbye in its back pocket. And the more that first hello turns out to matter, the more that last goodbye turns out to hurt. Such is the way of life. The only way to escape having someday to say a goodbye that really hurts is to avoid ever saying a hello that really matters. But never to say a hello that really matters means never to know the immense joy of loving your family or of having real friends. You cannot anesthetize yourself to the eventual pain of a goodbye that hurts without also numbing yourself to the incredible joy of a hello that matters.” (Charles E. Poole, The Tug of Home (Peake Road, Macon, Georgia), 1997, pp 79-80
“Whenever you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. it means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us, it means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart. For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. If you forget me, part of who I am will be gone.” (Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark (New York: HarperCollins, 1983), p. 159