Wow, so it’s been two months since I posted on here. Getting ready for summer and being in the thick of ministry has left little time for writing. We went to camp two weeks ago (more on that in an upcoming post). But the most significant event that’s happened this summer is the passing of my father in law. I was blessed to perform the service, which was a short graveside. I thought I’d share what I said, since it was my first funeral. Here it is:

“Today, we gather to celebrate the life of Kerry David Martin, son to David Martin, husband to Janie, father to Kara. He was preceded in death by his mother Jane and brother John Henry.

Those who knew Kerry will know that he lived in the moment. His music had to be loud and his movies had to have tons of explosions. He would be comfortable eating either at a fine steakhouse or the Texas Chili Parlor. But you know that Kerry lived in the moment if you ever heard him laugh. If he thought something was funny, you would hear it three counties over. He was as big and boisterous as any fireworks display, so it’s appropriate that he left us on his favorite holiday, the fourth of July.

Kerry was also stubborn. You had no chance in winning an argument with him. His dad David, told me he was born this way. Early on they lived in New York, when David would come home from work Kerry would run out of the house, climb up the porch and refuse to go inside. He was also passionate. When he went fishing, he brought multiple tackle boxes to be prepared for any situation. If he was into some activity you had to be into it as well. If he wanted to travel to Mexico to see a solar eclipse, you were going, too. The the two things that could melt his stubbornness were his daughter and his cats. I saw first hand how Kara could turn his gruff exterior into a giant Teddy bear simply by calling him “Daddy”.

Kerry’s true passion was science and computers. He especially loved anything to do with flight and astronomy. He got his pilots license and I’m sure there are one or two unfinished astronaut applications lying around the house somewhere. It seems rather fitting that the final space shuttle launch happened this morning. It seems the shuttle program couldn’t survive without one of its biggest fans. His curiosity led him to spend hours upon hours behind the lens of a telescope peering into the depths of the universe. I remember one thanksgiving when we dragged out the telescope so he could show me the stars. Even though he had almost encyclopedic knowledge of the night sky, he was still in awe of it. That night he quoted Psalm 19 to me:

Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

And now Kerry has the best view of the heavens without the aid of any telescope. He is learning firsthand from the Creator just how amazing and majestic the universe really is. Kerry is free now. Free from the pain and suffering of this world.

Death reminds us us that our lives are short. Something in us longs for something deeper and more permanent than this world. This taste that we all have for eternity is given to us by God. It’s his way of showing us that death is not the end. In the bible God tells us that ultimately he will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4. In Jesus, we will experience joy and hope everlasting, without the pain or sting of death.

This hope helps us understand death, but it does not always ease the pain. It is natural and fitting to feel sadness and grief over the loss of someone we love. We will miss Kerry, and this will not be easy. We will grieve, but we won’t grieve alone. We have all our family and friends, but God also grieves with us.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Jesus is the living example that God enters into our world, comes near to us and walks with us through our sadness and pain. He does not tell us to “get over it” or “tough it up”. Instead he sits beside us, grabs our hand, and walks us through the mourning process. He knows what it is like to lose a loved one. Jesus wept over the death of his good friend Lazarus and wept with Lazarus’ sisters. This same God is here with us today.

Kerry is no longer with us, but he is with His creator. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s speech after the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, we will never forget Kerry, nor the last time we saw him, before he ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

As we lay his body into the ground, his memory and legacy travels with us. We keep his memory alive. I encourage you to keep Kerry in your hearts. Tell stories about how Kerry touched your life. Remember how he dragged you to join him in doing something that he loved, and how you came away with a lasting memory. Blow up some fireworks. Go fishing. Eat some barbecue. Look up to the heavens often, and remind yourself of how Kerry never got tired of gazing into them.

Because when we tell stories about Kerry we not only honor Kerry’s impact on our life, we honor the God who created Kerry in His own image.”