I hung my head as the funeral concluded. "Let's go," my companion hissed, but I let it pass without acknowledgement. Instead, I listened to the choir beginning their final song, a farewell to our lifelong friend---or, moreso, a farewell from our lifelong friend. For he had chosen this song himself; thus was the situation before his death, cancer slowly killing him, giving him opportunity to plan his own funeral---a situation painful, and yet, somehow, triumphant.
I Cannot Yet Staunch Your FlowM. Stanley Bubien
You who dwell in the shelter of the LordMy throat constricted as my control began to slip; I desperately wanted to join in, but I only knew the chorus. When my pew's turn came to exit, I swallowed to loosen the tightness and slowly followed the retreating heels into the aisle. I made to allow my companion to pass ahead, but the usher pressed me on, causing my companion to grimace and sigh.
Who abide in His shadow for life
Say to the Lord: "My refuge, my rock
In whom I trust."
I lifted a cloudy gaze toward the casket. The cold death within tried to deny the blazing life our friend had led. And his faith---it had brought him this life, and brought it abundantly---even in his final hours as he lay dying, it allowed him to... live!
I noticed my companion also stared upon the casket, face pallid, knuckles white around her purse. Shaking her head, she tried to quicken her pace in passing, but the procession remained steady against her wishes, unyielding like a stone.
But I---in my mind's eye---from where I stood, I reached into the casket and embraced our friend. My embrace was met solely by stiff lifelessness, but I was not surprised, for I entered it knowing full well what I would find.
A tear rolled off my cheek and touched my finger, washing the vision away. I rubbed the wetness into my skin and whispered with choking voice, "I cannot yet staunch your flow." And, as if in answer, another tear wetted my hand and smeared its way across my palm.
A sudden tug pulled upon my arm. My companion pointed to a nearby door---a door leading from the church, to our car, down the road, to home. I looked into her eyes, eyes unstained by tears, eyes which darted again toward the door. I waved understanding, signaling that she could leave, but that I would remain in the procession. She glared briefly, but then fled, passing from the church.
At that moment, the choir reached the chorus. I cleared my throat and lifted my voice along with theirs.
And He will raise you upSinging, my tears began to subside. For in this song, chosen by my lifelong friend for his own funeral, I sang with booming voice, I sang away pain, and somehow---as I believe my friend had wanted---I sang to triumph.
On Eagles wings
Bear you on
The breath of dawn
And hold you in the palm
Of His hand.
And hold you, hold you, hold you...
For Doctor Joseph Lenihan.
"On Eagles Wings," Lyrics Copyright Michael Jonas.
Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.
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