They served pink punch at the funeral.
Pink punch with sherbet in it. And lemon squares and those little finger sandwiches stuffed with different fillings: egg salad, ham, salmon salad, tuna. There were vegetables cut up neatly, in bite-size pieces. And there was dip for the vegetables and more sweets – chewy blonde brownies, Rice Krispies squares, dark chocolate cookies.
It was a spread to make a church proud; the sacrificial hands of church ladies who had done this before were there, waiting to direct and refill plates.
And I sat idly back, an observer feeling the pain of the widow. A widow who was burying her life partner, the man who had wooed her as a young college student and grown old with her; a man of integrity and faithfulness, by all counts a man of God – now dead. She would go home to a bed and a house half full, echoes of a life lived well all around her.
To live means to lose. To live means to experience death. To live means loss.
In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts she writes “I will lose every single person I have ever loved.Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that?”*
All this loss wrapped up in pink punch and lemon squares.
And if the end is just a service, pink punch, and lemon squares then it’s pathetic. The human heart cannot handle sustained loss on a diet of sweets. That every single relationship ultimately ends in loss is too much for the heart to handle without a Saviour.
I think about words from my faith tradition, words to an ancient church in Thessalonica, a church that had experienced death and loss: “Therefore we do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”. There’s a mystery to the words. The mystery of Christ conquering death — Christ, risen from the dead, trampling down death, bestowing life.
Bestowing life so that serving pink punch and lemon squares is not an act of irony, but rather an act of sweet hospitality and grace to those who have come to offer comfort, to grieve with hope.
And as I think about all of this, the life and the loss, the hope and the hospitality, I realize I want pink punch with sherbet in it and lemon squares at my funeral.
*page 85 of One Thousand Gifts