In various forms it’s a joke every pastor or priest has heard about a funeral. After giving a glowing eulogy the spouse of the deceased walks up to the casket, looks in, and says “I just wanted to make sure we are talking about the same person.” Ha ha.
What’s interesting is that I’ve never heard that joke at a funeral.
People can be cavalier about death when it’s not in the room. Just recently I heard someone say “I guess she croaked.” I can assure you it wasn’t his mother who just passed away.
In October 1929 a 31-year-old C. S. Lewis was writing to his brother and they were discussing the distribution of their father’s estate (Albert died of cancer a month earlier). In his letter Warnie evidently made reference to how differently people view someone who passes away. His younger brother responds,
“What you say in your letter is very much what I’m finding myself. I always before condemned as sentimentalists and hypocrites the people whose view of the dead was so different from the view they held of the same people living. Now one finds out that it is a natural process.”1
It’s easy for young people to make fun of the old and for the healthy to say something about the infirmed. And it’s easy to take death lightly. But then the old, the infirmed, and the dead is someone you love and suddenly you can appreciate the words of the French author Madam de Stael, “We perhaps understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.”
“It is better to go to a home where there is mourning than to one where there is a party, because the living should always remind themselves that death is waiting for us all.” – Ecclesiastes 7:2 Good News Bible.
1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Family Letters 1905-1931, Vol I (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), 827.