Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)
I conducted a funeral this morning. It was for a member of our church who passed away last week. He was 95 years old. Like Abraham, he was “full of years.” And if the sole business of this life is to collect years, he was quite successful. But he wasn’t really the type to just sit back and count his days, he was more about making his days count. He had served his country in WW2, his church (as a song leader and deacon), his family, and his community. He was full of years, and those years were full of good things.
Now this man who was so full of years has been “gathered to his people.” Who are his people? Well, they are people who like him, belong to the Lord. They are people who like him, were flawed but faithful. And now they are all one big family gathered before the throne of God.
As I stood before the small gathering, I touched upon the brokenness and vulnerability that death brings to us all. I sought to comfort them by letting them know that God is walking through these things with us. I let them know that though Harold couldn’t come back to us, we could one day go to be with him if we would follow Jesus as he had. That was what Harold would want us to do.
So, we committed Harold’s body back to the ground where it came. We did so knowing that his spirit was with God. We did so knowing that one day, on that great day when Jesus returns, his spirit will be reunited with his body in the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). We said an earthly goodbye in hope, in faith, and in love of God for the future plans He has for His people.
Before I spoke, two Marines had come forward. They took hold of the flag on Harold’s casket and held it stiff and straight while Taps played. Then they folded it and one of them walked it over to Betty, Harold’s wife of 70 years. He took a knee and presented it to her saying, “On behalf of the President of the United States, The United States Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” I’ve seen this before several times, but it never fails to stir me. It’s glorious.
But it doesn’t hold a candle to the glory Harold is experiencing.