1 Corinthians 15
All the Room of Eternity
A funeral homily for an elderly man who drank of life deeply
All the Room of Eternity
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 35-38, 42-44, 53-58
By The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
I would like us this afternoon to take a trip through time and also enjoy a taste of eternity. In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Sit back please, and if you can, relax. Let your imagination be your guide. Go back in time to a day too long ago for any of us to remember. It’s a January day early in this century. The scene is the little community of Amadore, Michigan. Elizabeth and Franklin have a new baby. They name him Ronald.
He comes into the world the way all of us do. He looks tiny when his mother holds him. He fits into the crook of his father’s arm. His parents, their families, their friends are joyous at the birth of this tiny one, a special gift who arrives during the Twelve Days of Christmas.
This happened before so much else happened. This happened before Ronald grew to boyhood, then to manhood. Before he met Nora and married her in 1923. Before the C&O Railroad job, before putting on roofs for extra income, before the Fuller Studio. Before a son and two daughters. Before descendants to the third and fourth generations. Before seventy-two years, seventy-two years, of marriage to Nora, each day ending with conversation, the pair of them sitting together on the bed. Before a few final years as a widower.
Ronald Fuller seems to us now like some patriarch from the Old Testament. Ninety-three years of life, seventy-two years of marriage, children whose children are grandparents. A tall oak of a man, still working in the yard last fall, strong to the last.
But let me tell you something. I was not there to see it, but I believe it with all my heart: Ronald Fuller started out as a child, a baby, someone small and new, with an entire life ahead of him.
And he drank the glass of his life down to the bottom, like a hardworking roofer drinks lemonade on a hot summer evening. His life stretched like some bright banner from one end of this century to the other. He enjoyed it: the marriage, the family, the work, the travel, and so much else. Now it’s over: the whole delicious, dignified, precious story that got started on a wintry day in Amadore when this century was new. The grand old man seems far more frail now than he was then back when he was a small bundle.
We would be excused, I suppose, for taking this evidence and deciding that Ronald, the old railroad foreman, had only a one-way ticket: that his life was like a day, with sunrise in Amadore, hours full of experience and activity, and then a sunset late in the evening (as at the height of summer), that sunset in Port Huron, and then no more.
We would be excused for believing this, I suppose. So much leads us to see a human life like a map unfolded, with movement from eastern sunrise to western sunset. East is one thing, west is another, and as is often said, never the twain shall meet.
Or do they? The priest and poet John Donne advises you to take the unfolded map, that flat piece of paper, and curve it around the globe for a much more accurate representation of reality, how the world actually is. Notice what happens when you do this. Wrapping your arms around the globe, you find that east and west, two opposite edges of the map, are forced to touch. They are not so far apart. They are neighbors.
Ronald traveled widely through this great and beautiful nation. He loved to travel. Some of us here were on those trips as he navigated his way through one state after another. On a smaller scale, Ronald led each successive generation of his offspring from home to the school bus. These children included some of us here today. That too was important travel, and he was a good guide.
Let him teach us one thing more about travel: about the journey into life, through life, and out of life. Wrap the map of life around the globe, both Ronald’s life and your own, and you find that east and west meet and match. The opposites touch. They are neighbors. Death seems to sever life, but in reality it opens the way to new life, something more wondrous than we can imagine.
That new life is given to us through Jesus Christ. Its fullness awaits us after death, but we can begin to taste it now, through faith, in a hundred ways. Jesus was born for us, he died for us, now he lives forever; and whether we live or die, we can find true life in him.
Ronald’s birth in 1905 happened before so much else happened for him: his rich life, his good life, for which we thank God. Ronald’s death in 1998 happened before so much else happened for him: an eternity with God and God’s people.
The love of God for us is visible in the cross. It runs as bright threads through the days of life on earth. Yet it is a love too much for this life alone. It needs all the room of eternity.
I have spoken these words to you in the name of the God who makes our death a birth into glory: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Copyright 2008, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications), a book devoted to helping busy clergy prepare funeral homilies that are faithful, pastoral, and personal.