“Do you want to speak at the funeral?” the minister attempting to put together the program for my brother’s funeral asked my sister and me. We were gathered with family and friends at my sister-in-law’s home right outside the kitchen. Members of the Church were putting out food for the evening meal.
“We need to do this,” I heard my sister say. “I can’t put my little brother in the ground without telling everyone what a great guy he was and how much we loved him.” She looked at me, “We can do it together.”
My jaw dropped. “I don’t know,” I stammered. “How can I possibly stand up in front of all those people without completely losing it?”
We had just lost our younger brother, Bill, an avid runner with a cholesterol count of 130 to a sudden heart attack the day before. How could someone so physically fit die like this? We were still trying to absorb it. It didn’t seem real.
I was devastated. Bill and I were very close. Not a week passed without several emails or phone calls from him. And every Sunday he and his family joined our Mom and my family for Sunday dinner after Church.
“Who else will do it if we don’t?” she persisted. Reluctantly, I agreed.
The next morning we sat down together at my dining room table to put our thoughts together. She wanted to focus on funny things he had done growing up and his endearing quirky habits, bringing some levity to the situation. My preference was to remember his integrity, work ethic, dependability and family loyalty. We hammered it out, and then rehearsed. She read a paragraph, and then I read a paragraph.
She breezed through her part, poised and confident, but I couldn’t get through the first sentence of mine without giving the afternoon thunderstorm a run for the money. Lord, how am I ever going to be able to do this? I hurt so badly.
The night before the service, we gathered at the funeral home for meeting with friends and out of town family. The room was packed. As I was making the rounds, I spotted Robin, my prayer partner, standing on the side of the room by the door. We had spent hours praying together and seen many miracles as a result.
“What can I do to help you?” Robin asked. I knew she meant it.
“Don’t come to the funeral tomorrow,” I responded. “I need you to stay home and pray from three to four o’clock. Sometime during the service, Edith and I will be getting up to talk about Bill. Robin, this is an emergency. I need to know you’ll be praying while we are speaking.”
“Done,” she smiled, as she hugged me and slipped out.
Standing in front of my bathroom mirror the next morning, I practiced my part. Tears and a cracking voice still accompanied every rehearsal. My pain was so fresh and pounded me like a giant wave every time I began. Only knowing Robin would be in her prayer closet while we were speaking kept me from backing out.
At two o’clock, I parked my car and walked toward the Church school building where the family was meeting before the service. The minister entered and asked us to form a circle and hold hands while he prayed. At exactly three o’clock, he led us to the sanctuary. He peeked in and turned to report, “The Church is full.” The coffin, draped with a blanket of yellow roses and white lilies, was rolled to the head of the procession.
We followed the coffin and the minister slowly down the aisle, and took our seats at the front of the Church.
The service began. I kept thinking about Robin in her prayer closet. If she is praying, I can do this.
Finally, it was time. I looked passed my husband to my sister and nodded. We walked up to the podium and looked out at all the dear friends, colleagues, clients and extended family that had come. God’s love in me went out to them. In a split second I realized the most merciful thing we could do was to help them get through this. We could grieve later. This was their time to grieve. I took a deep breath. A deep calm wrapped around me like a cocoon.
“Most of you knew our brother as Bill,” I began. “But before there was Bill, there was Billy, our little brother.” Back and forth we went, Edith telling her funny stories (followed by peals of laughter) and me remembering and celebrating Bill’s wonderful character qualities. Not once did we shed a tear. Not once did my voice crack.
At the reception that followed, several people, with tears in their eyes, told us how much our remarks had meant to them. Others asked how in the world we were able to get through our speech.
I called Robin that night. “I kept you lifted up before the throne the entire hour,” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what you needed, but I knew God did. I prayed for the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7). I knew I was praying God’s will, so I stood on His Word that He heard me and I had what I asked.” (I John 5: 14-15). I visualized you and Edith speaking perfectly.”
“Thank you, Robin,” I said. “You were a life saver. Your prayers got me through my crisis and gave me the peace and courage to do what I needed to do.”
Are you faced with your own emergency, feeling totally inadequate to do what you need to do? Find an intercessor to pray for you and with you if possible. Then, believe in the power of prayer. Visualize the positive result you desire and have asked your intercessor to pray about it for you. Proceed confidently into the situation, knowing God is on your side and wants the best for you. Expect a great answer. You’ll get it.