words by: Ferree Hardy
It’s finally may, and I am enjoying the warmth that is gently pushing back the frost and snow of my first winter in northern New York. Having moved here from South Carolina right before Christmas, this is the first spring thaw I’ve seen in over a decade, and I’m enjoying it immensely. While living down South for ten years, I knew I missed the change of seasons, and now I know why. It’s a joy to be surrounded by the fragrance of thawing soil and budding branches, the greening of the grass, and early sprouts pushing their way up to warm fresh air.
The home I’m in has two porches. It’s on a hill in the middle of the small town of Ticonderoga. From my front porch, I can look out over part of the village and see the sunrise if I’m up early enough. But for a good sunset, I need to go over to my in-laws, less than a mile away. From their backyard overlooking some pasture land, I can watch that golden ball, all ablaze with yellow, orange, and purple clouds, slip behind the Adirondack Mountains. It’s precious, almost sacred, to view these masterpiece sunsets, to feel the balm of cooling dusk, and to be with family at the end of the day.
Sunsets are one of God’s most brilliant and generous ideas, don’t you agree? He didn’t have to make them at all, you know. The approach of nighttime could have been more like blowing out a candle. Poof! God doesn’t have to change the sunset every day, but He generously does. It’s like our Heavenly Father is drawing up the covers of earth’s bed and bidding us rest. Perhaps He closes the day with a sunset to say “good-bye” to it, to remind us to reflect on what a good day it was—that it was worthy of effort, love, and hard work.
As I mull this over, I wonder if sometimes going to a funeral is like signifying the close of a day, a time, and a life. There’s a saying, “Paying our last respects,” that reminds me of a sunset. I don’t hear that term very much, but it draws out some significant things that touch our hearts at funerals. People sometimes say, “I’m going to pay my last respects,” instead of saying, “I’m going to a funeral.”
Attending a funeral is a sign of respect, and it’s one last way to gather with the community in showing support for the family. By our presence, we acknowledge that we remember and that this life mattered. When someone who should be at a funeral is not, it makes people wonder. What could have been more important than this one-time event? Like a sunset, each funeral is unique, a time to reflect and draw things to a close. Outwardly we sympathize with family and friends; inwardly, we pause to consider our own humble mortality and place in God’s plans.
When “paying respect,” we aren’t trying to buy something. It’s not something we are obligated to do. But it means that we benefited from this person’s time on earth. They, or their loved ones, were a blessing to us personally, and it seems only right that we use our time to give this consideration…
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Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.