As many of you know a lady in our church died last Thursday. This was the first funeral that Baron had to completely lead. God in His sovereignty allowed Baron to preach one night of a funeral a couple weeks ago. Having that experience was a huge help to Baron. Funerals are a tough thing, when you live in a different culture you make lots of mistakes but you hate to make a mistake at a funeral, and you can't just stop and chuckle at a funeral when you make a mistake either. Baron really was nervous about saying/doing the wrong thing but I thought it went very smoothly and the family was pleased. Thankfully instead of the normal two nights of "preveghi" or a wake, they only had one Friday night and then the funeral on Saturday afternoon.
In Romania, each church has their own cemetery and you don't mix Orthodox bodies with Baptist bodies etc. So, we had always told our people not to worry (some of the old ladies often wonder where they will be buried), that they will be happy in heaven and we will worry about where to bury them. So, God opened up this door, led us to the right funeral home where the lady was a Christian and her son was the manager of an Orthodox cemetery right near our church and we were able to buy a plot there for Sora Parsida Nicola to be buried. We were also still able to conduct the whole service with no problems given by the Orthodox church.
The body is set in a very, very small "chapel" (I put it in quotations because it is not a chapel as you are envisioning it, it is a small, cold, concrete room). The casket is in the middle of the room with a bench on either side. Friday night was in the 40's. We left the kids home with Sarah. Baron preached a salvation message and one couple we specifically know that are not saved, listened to the whole message. I played the violin, we sang a few songs.
The funeral today was held outside the little chapel because there were more people today. It was much colder today, in the upper 30's. Very cold for an outside service. We dropped only Drew off at Maria's since he had a sore throat and Maria wasn't coming because she was having dizzy spells we brought the rest of the kids with us. I tried to explain to the little ones about the funeral. Nate was worried we were all going there to die. I re assured him that was not going to happen. Then I told the twins if they had any questions we would discuss them after the funeral (they tend to talk loud and say inappropriate things in public). I kept them all close to me during the service. So, we stood outside around the body while Baron spoke again, encouraging the family (some saved, some not) that Sora Parsida was happy, not suffering anymore, and in much better place. The family all stands right next to the body looking at her and crying quietly. Our church choir sang Psalm 23 and I sang, Still, My Soul, Be Still. We brought the electric keyboard for these two songs. I have never sang at a funeral before and was wondering how I would do singing outside in the cold next to a body but I just sang it to her daughter (also a church member) and God gave me strength to sing it to encourage her. Then, we follow the body (they put the lid on) to the hole. Baron says a few more words and tells the family to say their final good bye. That is when the son and daughter start waling and saying things like "oh momma, why did you have to leave me, mamma, mamma, what will I do without you..." They did this for just a few minutes (which is actually short, sometimes it can go on and on). Then right there on the spot they shovel the dirt onto the casket.
The family wanted to have a dinner after this. A dinner here for Orthodox is a good work where you put on a big dinner and allow in beggers and poor people as a good work to win brownie points for your lost loved one. We explained that Sora Parsida didn't need any "help" getting to heaven, she had accepted the finished work of Christ before she died and was assured a place in heaven already. The family understood this and it was a dinner in honor of her for her family and friends only so we approved. When we got there, Joey (whom I had kept telling to be quiet because he speaks loudly and you don't want him to say anything inappropriate) says quietly to me, "mom I need to tell you something, let me whisper it to you..." Then he comes up and whispers in my ear, "Mom, I don't want to die!" He was truly fearful, the whole thing of seeing her in the coffin and put in the ground did not set well with him. I assured him, he didn't need to worry about it right now, I explained as best I could that her earthly body was dead but she was happy in heaven with a new body.
That night after he was in bed he started crying, and saying over and over, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die." I just reassured him as best I could and told him to dream about his Christmas presents. It is really something we don't like to think about and when you go to a funeral and see the body put in the ground it does give you a sad, scared feeling. We as Christians just have to remember, that the ones who are suffering are the ones left behind.
I have been to funerals in Romania of unsaved people and they are far more depressing, this one seemed much lighter knowing she was in heaven celebrating Christmas with Jesus this year! God is good in all His ways, He was merciful and did not let her suffer long. His Spirit was with us today and kept Baron calm and focused on the task. I believe her family was truly comforted today with the service and the words spoken.