Colin Maynard, unsplash
Colin Maynard, unsplash

On Kathleen and The Art of Living and Dying Well

When I became a Christian I was nineteen years old. I remember the Minister speaking about how Christians ‘die well.’ I found this a strange notion but an interesting one.

Not long ago I went to the funeral of a dear old saint and I recalled the words that Minister spoke so many years ago. The Bible tells us that ‘it is better to go to a house of mourning than go to a house of feasting’ and I know this to be true. My friend Kathleen was ninety-four years old when she went to be with her Saviour. Her ninety-four years had been filled out with a devotion to all kinds of good deeds. To be able to attend Kathleen’s funeral and burial was a privilege that I shared with many. Kathleen was a deeply loved member of a tiny rural community.

Kathleen was ninety-four years old when she went to be with her Saviour. Her years had been filled out with a devotion to all kinds of good deeds.

Early on the morning of her funeral friends of hers gathered at the church to open the windows, to sweep the building and to make it lovely. People from all over brought basketfuls of beautiful bright hibiscus, sweet smelling frangipani and delicate ferns from their gardens to decorate the little church. There were flowers everywhere. Flowers decorated the lectern and the nave, they filled the window sills and lined the pews. I’d never seen the church look so pretty.

Light shone brightly through the coloured glass as we sang Kathleen’s favourite hymns. There was peace and joy that sat alongside grief as we thanked God for her life. A seventeen-year old girl who shared the same birthday as Kathleen and often met with her for morning tea was one of the people who spoke at the funeral. I thought about how precious it is that in the church family a ninety-four year old woman can become friends with a seventeen-year old girl.

A gentle man named Charles walked very slowly to the front of the church and hung his walking stick on the lectern. He spoke briefly about his friend Kathleen. Charles is in his nineties and only days before the funeral, he’d sat by Kathleen’s wheelchair after church and held her cup of tea for her as her hands had become very shaky. Charles described her incredible patience as she waited for her Lord to take her to be with Him. Kathleen struggled in her last few months to speak as quickly as she wanted to but she took every opportunity she could to encourage whomever she was with to push on in the Christian life. Kathleen knew the word of God was powerful and she treasured it. Kathleen prayed continually for others and no doubt she felt it a great blessing she could do that when her body was frail and she could do little else to help others.

One of Kathleen’s nieces spoke to the congregation about what an incredible impact her Aunty had had upon her when she challenged her as a young woman to take seriously the call to live for Jesus. This woman turned from her futile way of life to serve the living and true God because of what she was shown.

Kathleen’s grandchildren spoke with incredible reverence for this woman who had loved them so well but had never neglected to speak of the one who loved them even more.

One of Kathleen’s nieces spoke about what an incredible impact her Aunty had had upon her. This woman turned from her futile way of life to serve the living and true God because of what she was shown.

Many gathered at the church were not yet believers. They went to the weatherboard church where Kathleen had worshipped her God for years because they knew she would have wanted them to find their way there. The Minister spoke clearly about the desperate need we have of salvation through Jesus. I’m sure my friend would have wanted it that way. Kathleen went to be with the Lord the week after Billy Graham died. The Minister referred to Billy’s famous words: ‘Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address’. It was a fantastic truth to reflect upon.

Following the church service people walked to the cemetery holding sweet posies of flowers held together with twine. Kathleen was buried close to the sea and the sand was heaped up by the graveside. It seemed incredible that such a lot of sand should be dug up to bury such a small person. Kathleen was physically tiny but spiritually a giant. Her coffin was lowered into the grave and all of the men took shovels to fill the deep hole. The delicate flowers that people had been holding were laid upon the grave .

Kathleen was a generous friend to many from all walks of life. People from every home in that little community came together to grieve the loss of a great one. We wept and we thanked God for a friend who had been a wonderful example of how to live. Kathleen was a woman who ‘died well’.

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