I’m not in the habit of reading random obituaries, but this one dated August 7, 2012 grabbed my attention.
Virginia Dean Whalen Farless got the last laugh Tuesday evening
According to the obituary in the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal Mrs. Farless was the source of smiles, laughter, jokes and funny stories. It read in part.
“She chuckled in the face of death from the time she was born, the baby child of Thaddeus and Lottie Whalen in Harrison County, KY, on May 10, 1932. She had severe asthma and on many occasions, the doctor predicted to her older brother Gerald that she would not live through the night.”
“She not only lived, but laughed a lot, when she graduated from Oddville High School (perfect), as a funny pastor’s wife in SC, KY and Ashland City, TN, a Kentucky Colonel, and a nurse at Deberry Prison. “
The death notice said, “She was a joyful cancer survivor, a hilarious mother, and an over-the-top grandmother and great-grandmother.” It said , “She stood toe to toe with death on several occasions” as she was preceded in death her two daughters, Charlotta and Cheralyn and her beloved sister, Ruth.
The notice concluded by reading ” And on Tuesday night, after fighting death to a draw for 7 weeks, she got the last laugh when death thought it won, but she said “Aw shucks,” and went home to be with Jesus.
This kind of obituary may seem impertinent. At least it makes us feel a bit uncomfortable. It may feel out of place. And if you are mourning the death of a loved one, it may seem disrespectful.
However, didn’t Jesus’ victory over death promises a release its uncertainty, fear, and bondage? The Bible claims that Jesus gave us assurance through Friday’s vicarious sacrifice and Sunday’s triumphant resurrection.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb 2:14-16, ESV)
Jesus’ victory over the demon death, restored joy to Mary and Mary Magadalene when they came to the empty tomb. The crestfallen men walking the Emmaus road rejoiced at their chance encounter with Christ. The disciples’ hearts were gladdened by the appearance of Jesus as they met behind closed doors.
The subsequence message of Jesus was Good News to a fallen world. It brought joy to Jerusalem, Samaria, and throughout the Roman world. Peter, Paul and the rest of the apostles spread the message of life and light that filled hearts with new hope.
The murderers of Jesus were convicted of their crime, cut to the heart, and changed to become His followers. Sorcerers were saved. Military men became soldiers of Christ. Infidels became believers. Pagans were persuaded to put away their idols and worship the one and only God.
Gentiles, women, slaves and the disenfranchised of society found equality in Christ. The lowly of life were elevated. The mighty were humbled. And all shared a commonality of faith anchored in better promises, a better covenant, and better hope.
Oh, death was still a reality, as it is today. But Jesus demonstrated His domination over death and offers us the same. For the Believer death is not failure. It is not fatal. It is not final. Death is not goodbye, but “see ya’ later.”
We may not burst out laughing at the funeral service of a loved one. And their obituary probably won’t read the same as Virginia Farless. But through an aching heart, and tear-stained cheeks, we can find help and receive solace from the Savior.
We can look the devil in the eye and say, “You lose.”
“Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thess. 4:18)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman