Wouldn’t you know it? The one day I needed flights to run on time, time decided to slow down. I was scheduled to fly from Denver to Oklahoma City for Tom’s viewing and funeral. His public viewing was scheduled from 12 to 5, with a viewing for family and friends from 5-7 p.m. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see Tom’s body one more time.

I knew Tom’s soul was no longer animating his body and that, despite the best efforts of the undertaker, he would look different (I worked in the funeral business for a short time). Still, I thought to myself, that body is Tom’s; God has promised it will be raised from the dead. The only Tom I had ever known was an embodied Tom. I simply needed one more time with his earthly body, one more time to sit and visit and ponder the thirty years we had spent together, laughing, thinking, planning, praying, grieving, and, very rarely, arguing.

When I arrived at Denver International Airport I anxiously glanced at the flight board and sure enough, my flight to OKC was delayed. It would be leaving two hours late. If I took that flight I would surely miss the viewing. Happily, United was able to transfer me to another flight and if things ran smoothly, I would still be able to make the viewing. Sadly, it was not to be, or so it seemed. For the weather was iffy, the flight crew was late, and flights were backed up across Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. My heart sank as I realized we wouldn’t land until 7:40 p.m., with another half hour to expire in picking up my rental car. At best I would arrive at the funeral home well over an hour and a half late, long after the last mourner had departed. Surely things would be locked up tight.

Yet the determination to see Tom’s body remained. What would be the worst thing that could happen? I would drive to the funeral home, the lights would be off and the parking lot deserted, and I would drive disappointedly to my hotel.

When I pulled into the funeral home parking lot, a good hour and a half late, it looked as though my fears had been realized. The parking lot was empty, yet a few lights were still on in the home itself. I walked up to the door, found it open, and stepped inside. Two women, both in their early sixties, were sitting in the office. They looked up and smiled.

I began my rehearsed speech. “I’ve had a really bad flying day. I’m sorry I’m so late. Do you think I could spend a few moments with Dr. Oden?” They both kindly nodded yes and one of them led me into a large room with Tom’s open casket resting against the far wall. So many people must have come. Now, though, it was just Tom and me. “Take all the time you want,” my gentle friend said. “There’s absolutely no rush.”

It was then I realized that the delayed flights and disruptive weather had been a blessing, at least for me. If I had arrived on time, greetings, consolations, and conversations would have been the order of the day. God had provided me with the space and time to say good-bye. It was just what I needed.

I slowly walked across the room and looked at Tom’s body. I chuckled as I noticed that Tom’s family had chosen to dress him in a dark blue suit, white dress shirt, and his “book tie.” Perhaps you’ve seen one. The tie was covered with books, just as Tom’s life had been.

Almost immediately I started to talk to Tom, thanking him for the many years – and adventures – we had experienced together. With the words came tears, and that was only right. For he was my pal, and who doesn’t cry when you have to say good-bye to a friend you’ve watched and loved for such a long time? Tom’s hair was a bit mussed, so I tried to fix it. I laid my hand on his forehead and his hands. They were very cold. Tom, indeed, was no longer there.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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