Last week I was honored to help lead a “memorial service” for a friend’s father. I had never met Ed McFadden nor the bulk of his family. Nevertheless, I was asked to speak the Word during a time of memorial and celebration. This was not a memorial like most would expect. While many believe that funerals and memorials are to be times of somber reflection and sadness, the McFadden family wanted to make sure that this was different.
All reports from friends and family are that Ed was a true gem of a man. An avid golfer, he was memorialized at the 14th tee of the Montgomery Village Golf Course. The tone and tenor of the service was one of celebration for a life well lived. Friends and family gathered at the tee for a short time of celebration with words from his sons and myself. Four doves were released. One dove symbolized his spiritual release from this world and the other three represented the presence of the Trinity in our lives.
All in all this was a wonderful expression of what everyone believed Ed would have wanted and it seemed to sum up how he chose to live his life. The most unique, yet in many ways touching, part of the time was when seven of his closest golf buddies gave him a 21 ball salute.
Some people may find this type of celebration of life to be inappropriate or disrespectful. Personally, I found it to be one of the best “services” that I have had the privilege to be part of. The time we spent was as unique as the life we were celebrating. It also had a spiritual presence that I believe all funerals should have. Yes, at the death of a lov
ed one we are sad, but we also must remember that the dearly departed are experiencing the overwhelming love of God.
The day of Ed McFadden's service I saw an article in the Lima News from Ohio. It was about the picture to the left. In the picture the family of Buckeyes fan Roy Miracle celebrated his life by creating a memory of him in a way that expressed his love of Ohio State Athletics. When the picture was posted to the OSU website, many people sent emails complaining about the disrespect being shown to Mr. Miracle. His family saw it as a way to remember his life well lived. They chose to remember him in a happy way even as his earthly body was waiting to be laid to rest.
I have often struggled with the reality that as Christians we say we don’t fear death. We speak strong words of hope and peace, yet when the reality of death comes, we abandon that for ceremony and retreat behind the “wall of reverence.” All lives are unique and I believe they should be celebrated as such.
There is nothing wrong with tears and mourning in the deep sadness that often accompanies the death of a loved one. My concern is that far too often we judge those who seek to honor loved ones in a different way. After spending time with the McFaddens and their friends, I can’t imagine a solemn assembly filled with rituals and rights being used to memorialize Ed. The 14th tee was the right place. The laughter and tears that mingled that day were more than appropriate. They were testimony to Ed and to the reality of what God has done in the world.