At Dad’s funeral we had a closed casket with a military flag draped across. In attendance was a woman from Dad’s church, with her 3- or-4-year-old granddaughter in tow. The child had sort of been Dad’s pet at church; he took her candy every week. Of course the child had no idea what this funeral was.
Beforehand, as people arrived and milled around, our family got up front and sang several songs. (Because that’s what we do!) During one upbeat song, the little girl escaped from her grandma, ran right up in front of the casket, and began to dance. The grandma made a move to retrieve her, but I signaled, “Leave her alone.” Dad would’ve loved it!
As believers, there should be some sense in which we can “dance,” even in the face of death. This darling little girl’s “inappropriate” funeral behavior reminded me of an old poem (which I’ve been unable to locate online but have a copy of). It tells of a father who—seeing his little boy frolic in the cemetery—changed his own mind about how to behave toward death. Here are excerpts:
We walked within the churchyard bounds,
My little boy and I;
He laughing, running happy rounds,
I pacing mournfully.
“Nay, child, it is not well,” I said,
“Among the graves to shout,
To laugh and play among the dead,
And make this noisy rout.”
A moment to my side he clung,
Leaving his merry play;
A moment stilled his joyous tongue,
Almost as hushed as they.
Then quick, forgetting the command
In life’s exulting burst
Of early glee, let go my hand,
Joyous as at the first.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
A triumph won o’er sin and death,
From these the Saviour saves;
And, like a happy infant, Faith
Can play among the graves.
—“A Walk in a Churchyard” by Archbishop Trench, born 1807