Purpose in the Pointless
By T.E. George
The twelve-year-old boy sat by himself in the funeral home lobby, staring at his shoes. It wasnít that his shoes were that interesting but rather he simply hoped people would quit noticing him. He looked as though he could not stand one more well-meaning aunt or cousin patting his shoulder and telling him everything would be all right.
Finally the area near the casket cleared out and the boy found the courage to walk over and take a look at the person lying there. He grabbed the edge of the casket, his knuckles white as the lilies in the arrangement nearby. His face was red and eyes puffy, but no tears would come. So he just stood there, frozen, staring at the man I knew was his father.
"This child needs help," I thought. But try as I might, I couldnít think of anything to say with any more depth than what the others had said to him. My eyes closed as I offered up a breath of prayer for the tortured boy before me. "Lord, I donít know how to help him."
As I opened my eyes, to my amazement I didnít see the same boy standing there. He was about the same size and apparently the same age, but his clothes were different. I scanned the child, trying to understand how he had switched places so quickly with the other boy. Then I looked down at his feet and caught my breath. Those penny loafers with the wheat-head penny stuffed in the front flap--they looked familiar; too familiar.
The boy turned toward me, and it hit me. It was me. In my mind I had drifted back to a place I had so desperately tried to forget.
My father died of a massive heart attack when I was exactly the age of the boy I had been observing. For years, the whole thing had seemed so pointless. Sure, I had heard all the usual exhortations. "God works all things together for good Ö" In the words of a modern day philosopher, "Yada, yada, yada." Try as I might, I had never been able to see any wonderful purpose in a twelve-year-old boy watching his father die, five hundred miles from home in a motel room.
I rubbed my eyes as the tears that could not form for that other boy did in my own. Somehow, God was using the pain of my past to link me with that young man trying to find a way to say goodbye to his father.
A scripture passage clawed its way out of the prison where I had thrown all the platitudes thrown at me over the years. Yes, there it was. We can comfort others with the same comfort God has shown us. A voice whispered to me, "Just go tell that boy you know how he feels because you are the only one here that truly does."
Without hesitation, I stood and walked over to the boy at the casket. "Son, you donít know me but I just wanted to tell you something."
The young face looked up at me, hardened by the same feelings I had experienced years before. "What is it Mister?"
"I lost my dad, almost exactly the way you did, when I was your age. Everybody tried to make me feel better. Some even told me to act like a man, when I was just a boy."
Feeling free to join in his private moment, I placed my hands on the casket beside his.
"Anyway, I just wanted to tell you itís ok to cry if you need to. Itís ok to be mad. Itís ok to tell God how you feel about it. Just give it all to Him and one day it will be ok. Really."
When I finished, I walked away and sat down. Somehow it only seemed right to leave the child alone with his earthly father and his heavenly Father. A few minutes later he reached up and stoked his dadís hair. He turned toward me with big, warm tears flowing down his cheeks.
As he walked past me he smiled and patted my shoulder, then walked away. There was no verbal "thank you" and no more words spoken. There was no need for any. As that young man left, memories of my earthly father flooded my mind. Somehow I had not only offered a bit of peace to that boy, but I had experienced it for myself.
I stood to leave the funeral home and smiled. There really is purpose in what often seems pointless. How else could I have helped that boy if I had not been able to say "I know how you feel" and really mean it?
Take a look around you tomorrow. Do you see someone mired in what seems to be a pointless moment of life? Perhaps God has done something in your past that will bring purpose to both someone else and yourself.
T.E. George was a minister for over twenty-five years, and now works in the private sector. He has been married for 31 years to his dear wife, Judy, and is the father of two married sons. If you would like to write to this author, you can do so through the Letters page of this magazine.