Summary: Funeral sermon for Mrs. Lola Black, who died suddenly only five months after her husband’s death.
In March, when we gathered in this place to say farewell to a creative, innovative man, we did not dream that five months later we would gather again to bid adieu to his cherished helpmate. Charlie and Lola are together again, in death as in life; and it’s almost beyond belief. It just does not seem possible that your family would be visited with so much loss in so short a time. And I am aware that there have been other losses too. Surely, like Job in ancient days, you must be feeling that the hand of the Almighty has lingered long on you, and that your pain is out of proportion to what you can endure. All of us here feel that with you; we share your hurts and your questions.
It makes us all feel the temporariness of life, doesn’t it? The shortness of life, how fragile it is. Not only that Lisa and LaSonja have lost both father and mother in such a short time, and that many of you have lost two loved ones, without enough time to heal; but also that our esteemed sister, Lola, was still so young. Her death was completely unexpected. It’s hard to believe and still harder to accept. Life is painfully fragile, short, uncertain. And that hurts.
In fact, I would not be surprised to learn that many of us here spent some time this past week thinking about our own mortality. I would not be surprised to find out that many of us, after we learned about Lola’s death, became a little more aware of our own aging. It seemed to me on Tuesday morning when I came to your home, the steps were a little harder to climb and the air a little more difficult to breathe. Much the same thing had happened on the previous Friday to one of my neighbors, about the same age and under just about the same circumstances. I could not avoid feeling the shortness of life, of all life, maybe of my life. The Bible asks us so to number our days that we might apply our hearts to wisdom, and Lola’s loss makes us do that. Life is short; though we live a hundred years, it is still just a whisper in earth’s millions, too short and too uncertain.
It is too short because, if we are at all healthy, there are things we want to accomplish. Lola had planned to bring back here from Alabama the piano on which she had practiced as a youth, intending to resume her musical pursuits. But life was too short for her to accomplish that. I am quite sure that when the death angel hovers over me, I shall be waving in his face my eight-page list of things to do and my roster of books yet unread. But I doubt that he will be impressed to give me time to finish. Life is too short, for there are things we want to finish.
Life is too short because there are people we have not yet settled with, people with whom we have unfinished business. No matter how much communication goes on, there is still unfinished business. With you, her brothers, living at a distance, I am sure there were many things she would like to have said to you, but life turned out to be too short. With you, her daughters, how wonderful that you did stay in close touch! How commendable that you called one another daily! And yet, I am sure that there were still things she wanted to say to you, things she would have done for you. And the grandchildren! As a relatively new grandparent, I have so much in mind that I want to do with my grandchild; and I know that there was much that Lola would have enjoyed doing with Lauren and EJ. But life is short, far too short. There are people with whom we have unfinished business.
And so, as we reflect on that, we begin to look for a way to leave a legacy behind. We try to figure out, if we suspect that our lives may be drawing to a close, how we can leave behind something that will last.
Some pour themselves into making money and storing it up for the next generation; I have known older people to refuse to spend money they ought to have spent on their own health care, just so they could pass on a substantial financial legacy to their children. My experience is that such a legacy is spent by the time the last clod of earth is thrown on the grave! It doesn’t last.
Some arrange for monuments to be built – if not in stone, at the cemetery or in one of our famous DC traffic circles, where few will see them or know who lies there, then in programs or projects with their names on them. But that is seldom enough. We Washingtonians may know of the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation or the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. We may know of these foundations, but likely know little if anything of the people whose names adorn them.