My Cup Runneth Over

"This is a real funeral. Your loved ones aren't coming back, you're all alone. You'll forget to eat. You'll sleep for thirty-six hours on end. Welcome to the worst day of your life. You'll grieve until you're eighty-two."

“The Lord is my shepherd,” he’s saying, slowly. And it takes him a good three syllables just to say the word, “Lord.”

He stands beside the casket, sweating through his suit. His white hair looks nearly perfect.

This is Brewton, Alabama. The family of the deceased sits motionless with swollen faces, dabbing their eyes. He’s old, he talks with a drawl that won’t quit. He has the Bible open, but it’s only for show. He could recite this passage from memory.

For the life of me, I don’t know why anyone—myself included—bothers to pick up a pen and write anything. Everything you’d ever need to know; he’s saying it.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”

The sound of a bird chirping competes with the preacher’s voice. Someone ought to shoot that bird.

“He restoreth my soul…”

I once knew a girl whose husband died when his tractor rolled over. At the funeral, she sat beneath the big tent, stone-faced while the preacher spoke. Her two children beside her.

That morning, she told me, “I’m too stunned to cry. I keep expecting it to hit, but every time I try to cry, nothing comes.”

That day, she didn’t move a muscle during the sermon. When her cousin sang, “Amazing Grace,” a hundred people bawled—she didn’t even blink. Graveside: the preacher recited the 23rd Psalm.

Her face busted wide open.

“Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…”

You might think this is just another Bible verse. It’s not. It’s the poetry of my people. And it predates the days my ancestors ate giant lizards. I can see at least two folks in the crowd mouthing along with the verse. Three, if you count me.

The preacher finishes the scripture recitation, then he nods at the grieving family and hugs one woman.

And, this is it.

This is a real funeral. Your loved ones aren’t coming back, you’re all alone. You’ll forget to eat. You’ll sleep for thirty-six hours on end. Welcome to the worst day of your life. You’ll grieve until you’re eighty-two.

But right now, before all that happens, you have two choices:

You can get angry and dog cuss God—lots of people do. Or, you can believe something big. That surely, hopefully, goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your cotton-picking life.

And you should know: none of us believe it because some preacher claims it’s Gospel. We believe it because we want to.

And, I can’t speak for anyone else.

But I’m going to believe it until they lay me in that casket.

16 comments

  1. Jeanine - July 19, 2016 11:26 am

    Me, too!!!!!!!

    Reply
  2. Tracy - July 19, 2016 12:19 pm

    This is lovely… Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Ken Huff - August 2, 2016 12:45 pm

    nice! thank you.

    Reply
  4. j - August 4, 2016 12:34 am

    One of the best things I’ve read. Thank you. Jeannie Schierberg, PC FL

    Reply
  5. Hrc - April 12, 2017 11:38 am

    Reality in triplicate … father son and Holy Ghost … amen Sean

    Reply
  6. Gail from Ramer, AL - April 12, 2017 1:09 pm

    We have family cemeteries out in the country in Bullock County (Daddy’s side) and Pike County. I will be laid to rest in Bullock County next to my Mama and Daddy. My Baptist preacher friend has known for years that I just want graveside and I just want the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. I agree. It’s everything you need!

    Reply
  7. Peggy Jones - April 12, 2017 1:20 pm

    Sean, you knocked it out of the ballpark today! So well written….Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Deanna - April 12, 2017 1:27 pm

    Comforting

    Reply
  9. Marlene Willis - April 12, 2017 2:07 pm

    Still grieving at age 81 but with joy in memory and confidence in the life to come. The Lord is my Shepherd.

    Reply
  10. Mindy - April 12, 2017 2:33 pm

    “Welcome to the worst day of your life. You’ll grieve until you’re eighty-two.” I’m 9.5 months into grieving…this went straight to my heart. Were it not for God’s goodness and mercy, I would not last.

    Reply
  11. Mark - April 12, 2017 3:56 pm

    Well written. If I didn’t believe that, I would be living a life most miserable. I have cancer, treatable, but not highly curable. But goodness and mercy follow me very day.

    Reply
    • JON - April 12, 2017 8:09 pm

      God bless you Connie. Our prayers are with you too

      Reply
  12. Jane - April 12, 2017 4:34 pm

    Last week our family took another “Bolen” to rest along side his mamma and daddy and all the other Bolens in Jackson, Alabama! The casket spray contained Spanish moss, magnolia leaves and turkey feathers representing cousin Harry – the great outdoorsman he was! He knew about green pastures. He went home – and surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives! Thanks for a great story!

    Reply
  13. Connie - April 12, 2017 5:52 pm

    My favorite Psalm of all. Such a blessing to read this as my Mom had major stroke this morning and as I sit by her side in hospital room… your post is so comforting… thanks Sean

    Reply
  14. Debbie Sumrall - April 12, 2017 6:07 pm

    Beautifully said….and so true! And I, too, will believe it forever!

    Reply
  15. JON - April 12, 2017 8:11 pm

    Our prayers, thoughts, good wishes are with you as well.

    Reply

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