I attended an interesting funeral today and wanted to tell you about what made it so special. It was the funeral for a man who was just one year older than me. It's really hard to see someone that young die, but the funeral was a great send off for him.
This man actually died some years back, but his wife was able to resuscitate him. They found he had a problem with his heart, so installed a pacemaker. He has been living very well with it all these years, and was very active. He was employed with the sheriff's department, and kept fit and active. He was a hostage negotiator. He and his wife were members of our congregation, but moved away about 6 months ago. I was so surprised at how hard he worked during the move. I've never seen someone who could keep working that many hours, and that hard. He carried box after box down stairs. I just didn't know where he found the strength. He was strong, and in good shape. But about a week ago he went out running. I guess he started not feeling well, so sat down on a bench at a park. A passerby found him there dead. Word is that the pacemaker failed him.
One of the most interesting things about him was that he made a decision to learn to play the bagpipes so that he could play for the funerals of fallen police officers. He joined the bagpipe band, and took lessons. I can remember hearing him play for our city on veteran's day. The most touching part of his funeral was when, as the casket was being wheeled in to the chapel, a bagpipe player began to play "Amazing Grace". If you have never heard that song played on the bagpipes for a funeral, you can't imagine how touching it can be.
This particular bagpipe player was this man's teacher, and is a world renowned bagpipe player named Ian Whitelaw. You can hear some of his music by clicking on this link. I felt a little bad for Mr. Whitelaw because after his performance no one clapped. I caught up with him in the hall afterwards because I wanted to explain this to him. In our church, we have a tradition of not clapping during any meeting that begins with a prayer. For us it is a mark of reverence. And actually, I think it is even more meaningful to have the silence during a service like this, than to hear applause. But I wanted him to know that we were all deeply moved, and WANTED to clap, but did not do so because of our traditions. I hope he will have the satisfaction of knowing that his music meant a great deal to everyone there, and especially to the family of the deceased. But isn't there a twinge of sadness to know that the man who spent so many years playing bagpipes for others, needs to have them played for him?
But as I think about it, I can't think of any more fitting way for this man to be ushered out of this life, than with the music he so greatly loved. I know it brought great comfort to his family, and to the men with whom he served. I wouldn't mind having bagpipes at my funeral!