Hold a Memorial Service For Yourself

by | May 23, 2016 | 2 Those Who Mourn

Tom Sawyer at his own memorial service.

Tom Sawyer at his own memorial service.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
One of the most memorable scenes from Mark Twain’s, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, involves Tom and his friends, Huck and Joe, peeking in at their own memorial service. Given up for dead during a long adventure from home, they eavesdropped on the preacher’s eulogy.

As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they   occurred they had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide.[1]

We speak of the deceased in sunny superlatives. Twain may read this as a sentimental indulgence. Freud might see in it a defense against guilt for having wished the deceased ill in life. A sociologist might see the community immortalizing the dead in the face of life’s precariousness.
All these interpretations have merit. But such explanations presuppose the invalidity of funerary praise.
Perhaps sunny superlatives amplify more than a little truth. The nobility, sweetness, generosity, and outright beauty the preacher saw in the three rascals may reflect a God’s-eye view difficult for mortals to cast upon each other while we live.
“Let us create them in our image,” Genesis reports God commanding in the heavenly council with the creation of humans. We carry some peculiar manifestation of the image of God in our character.
When the grouchiest, rudest, mooching manipulator in the family dies, everyone might breathe a sigh of relief. Yet, someone in the sanctuary saw something to love in the old wretch and put up with him more than anyone with better sense could. That someone could see the imago dei even so.
Sometimes I think most of us would not spy on our own memorial service as Tom, Huck, and Joe did. We spend our lives averting our gaze from the image of God we bear. Those who look in the mirror too much focus on superficial characteristics that only conceal or distract from the imago dei. Those who look seldom or with disdain fear they won’t find it.
But let me challenge you to hold a memorial service for yourself. Just invite God. They call this prayer.
Say a few words about how you remember yourself, the gift you offered, the peculiar beauty you brought to bear if only for a season. Then listen. You probably won’t hear a word. But if you’re patient, you’ll feel something superlative.
Question for Reflection and Comment: Well…What was your memorial service like?

[1] For the quotation in chapter 17 of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer, (including the illustration), visit:


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