A black suit and a black tie. A white shirt and black shoes. Formal attire warn on two Saturdays, one week apart, and for very different reasons.
Saturday, June 20, I led a wedding in Franklin Springs, GA, outside on a very hot morning. We celebrated the uniting of a couple. Songs, prayers, and many words.
Saturday, June 27, I helped lead a funeral service in Elberton, GA, on a morning of reminders. We honored my 90-year-old father who passed away fifteen Saturdays before that day. Songs, prayers, and many words.
A story of hello. A story of goodbye.
A glance into a future together. A glance back at a past together.
Very different ceremonies on very similar Saturdays.
Hearing wedding vows voiced as sweat dripped in pace. Hearing military sounds as honor held its place.
Seeing a bride and groom smile, sincerely. Seeing grins and tears merge, simultaneously.
Promises stated. Memories repeated.
Those Saturdays’ stories weren’t about me. But I felt them both, professionally and personally.
Counseling a couple as they prepared for living the promises they would state—then publicly announcing them as husband and wife.
Seeking various forms of counseling myself as we delayed my father’s funeral during a time of international health concerns—then publicly confessing the reality of his death.
I listened to the pledges voiced. I listened to the stories told.
Saturdays so different. Saturdays so similar. Summer heat on both days. Same June. Same state. And, for me, the same black suit and black tie and white shirt and black shoes.
Each event containing narratives of love, of grace, of forgiveness, of help from our Creator. Our promises based on His ability to provide strength. Our eternal assurance held by His hands of grace and truth.
As I talked in front of all people who attended the wedding, I spoke to a couple. I offered reminders and meanings, knowing they might hear a few of the comments voiced on that hot Saturday while countless thoughts bombarded their minds.
As I talked about my dad, I spoke to all people who attended the funeral. I offered humor and grief, knowing the audience might recall a minority of the remarks stated on that summer Saturday while endless memories filled their minds.
I need to continue learning from those Saturdays: about love and commitment, about life and death, about joy and grief.
How can I become better at living what I claim to believe? How can I stay true—no matter the temperature or time or hurts or fears or thrills—to promises I believe and pledges I’ve made? How can I live so that when my life on earth ends, I’ll be like a bride walking joyfully for a life that never ends?
On these days, I’m not wearing a black suit or black tie or white shirt or black shoes.
But, on these days, I’m pondering those questions.
And I’m praying God helps me live life so that whoever attends my funeral will know they were loved.