Love Always Gets the Last Laugh
On Holy Saturday, the Saturday before Easter, I did a funeral. It was for a young man who was only 21. His name was Koby. I didn’t know him before he died, but through conversations with his mom, his siblings, and some of his closest friends, I got to know a vibrant human being I wish I had known in this life. (That’s often the way it is with preparing for funerals: We ministers get to know the deceased on an intimate level through the heartfelt testimonies of their loved ones that sometimes never come out until grief forces them to the surface.) After ending the call from talking with Koby’s mom for the first time, though, I couldn’t help thinking about the peculiar timing of his funeral. It was Holy Week, and Easter was on the way.
That Saturday afternoon was bleak. At the funeral home, I walked into the chapel area to find a full house of family and friends from teenagers to octogenarians. Sniffles cut through the canned music piped into the room. Koby’s four-legged love, a dog named Duke, sat in the aisle on the front row whimpering, unable to sit still. The palpable sadness was thicker than Texas humidity, and it slowed my walk as I approached the family to express my condolences.
Then the music stopped and I climbed into the pulpit. Half the room looked down. Half looked right at me, waiting for what the hell you say in a moment like that. I let the silence hold us all for a moment. Then I said the only thing I could say. I told them the truth.
“As much as we’ve been dreading this day, there’s something to be said for the fact that Koby’s celebration of life service happens to be taking place on the Holy Saturday of Easter weekend,” I said. “Resurrection and new life are right around the corner. Death doesn’t get the last laugh; Koby does.” And just like that, while grief remained, the heavy burden of anxiety and fear and worry and despair was lifted—at least that’s what it felt like; and in moments like that, what we feel is indescribably real.
That’s how resurrection works. You can’t quite put it into words, but it’s indescribably real, taking the weight of death and its constant meddling with our obsessive thoughts and lifting it so that we can breathe easier, sit taller, and ultimately rise to face another day with new life. It’s the power of God’s love that always gets the last laugh over the intimidating atrocities and tragedies of each day, a love poured out so lavishly and unconditionally that nothing can keep us in a tomb of despair forever, not when there’s so much of that love to be shared and shown in these brief days we’ve been given. And didn’t Jesus use every ounce of his time on this earth embodying and extending the love of God? Ceaselessly shining the light of a Love that will not let us go with his entire being?
Here’s a story I shared in Koby’s eulogy: When Koby was in the 5th grade, his mom was dropping him off at school. And when Koby got out of the car, she said, “I love you.” But Koby was kind of growing up now. He was a big 5th grader, so he didn’t say anything back. After he closed the door, his mom rolled down the window and said a little louder, “I said, ‘I love you.’” At that point there was a coach standing right next to Koby, and when he heard what his mom said, the coach told Koby, “Boy, you’d better tell your mom you love her.” So, he did, and he never withheld an “I love you” after that.
There’s a message in here for all of us: never withhold love. Always give your love away, because expressing love to someone, telling someone “I love you,” has the power to bring someone back from the brink of hopelessness. It has the power to make someone believe that they matter. It has the power to save lives. It has the power of resurrection. Koby’s life may have been cut short, but he left all of his “I love you’s” on the field, and the people who were blessed to be in the circle of his affection were better for it, blessed by it.
So, thank God for Koby and the love that did not let him go in this life and that will not let him go in the next. Thank God for the resurrection that always gets the last laugh. Thank God for this season of Eastertide when we might remember those we’ve lost and celebrate the undying Love that keeps us connected to them now and into eternity. Alleluia! Amen.