My husband, Ted, and I attended the funeral of his sister in law, Aquila Freeman, in Houston on the same day as all newscasts were telling of the horrible murders in Aurora, Colo. Ted’s oldest daughter lives in Aurora and is a movie buff, so of course we called to see if she might have attended the Batman movie the night before. She did not, but she did tell us of chilling scenes taking place just a short distance from her home. She reported that she lived not very far from where the accused shooter lived in the apartment complex. All of the main streets were blocked off with yellow crime scene tape and Cindy had to find other ways to get where she needed to go.
During the funeral service for Ted’s sister in law, who only lived a week in ICU after cancer was found all over her body, a theme seemed to be taking place, and apparently without it being discussed among the ministers who were chosen to conduct the funeral. One thing I liked, even though some of my former church family would probably disapprove, is that a talented young man led the congregation in singing one of Aquila’s favorite songs, and he did it with boundless energy and a big smile on his face.
The old spiritual, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye,” seemed to fit this godly woman who really wanted to go to Heaven to see Jesus first, and to be with her preacher husband who had died three years earlier. The song is bouncy, fast paced, and demands toe-tapping and hand-clapping, which it got from the folks gathered in the church building.
One portion I remember is “Now, don’t you weep for me when I’m gone, for I won’t have to leave here alone. And when I hear that last trumpet sound, my feet won’t stay on the ground. I’m gonna rise with a shout, gonna fly, gonna rise with my Lord in the sky. Heaven is near and I can’t stay here. Goodbye, world, goodbye.” When we returned home, I looked up the song in an old Assembly of God hymnal. I read, “I’ve told all my troubles goodbye, goodbye to each tear and each sigh. This world where I roam cannot be my home, I’m bound for that home in the sky. I walk and I talk with my Lord, I feast every day on His word. Heaven is near and I can’t stay here. Goodbye, world, goodbye.”
This verse is for those that might be dealing with depression and heartache today: “I won’t have the blues anymore, when I step across to that shore. And I’ll never pine for I’ll leave behind my heartaches and cares ever more. A day, maybe two, then goodbye, goodbye to each sorrow and sigh. Heaven is near and I can’t stay here, goodbye, world, goodbye.”
The minister that stood to speak after that rousing song said almost in surprise, “Wow, that certainly described Aquila’s legacy. She knew where she was going, who she would see, and she was certainly ready to make that crossing over to Heaven.” Another speaker continued on the theme by saying that Aquila’s legacy was in her six grandchildren and one great grandchild that she adored. Everyone she met soon learned about these special folks in her life.
I ask today one question: What legacy are we building to leave for our children, grandchildren, coworkers, neighbors and friends? Do we really want them to think that we can drink more alcohol than anyone they know? Do we want them to remember that we were unfaithful to our spouse? Didn’t put our kids first in our lives? How about remembering that we were skilled in deceiving folks in business associations? Perhaps that we lied frequently? Or used terrible language? That we made unwise choices? Or that the sin of pride kept us off guard in every area of our lives?
Somehow, I have to come to think that the accumulation of acquiring great amounts of money, houses and lands, empires in this world, great firms, business institutions, universities, sports records, and travel miles just won’t match up to a godly character, honest reputation and a heart of love at our dying day. That legacy is being built every day we live.
The closing speaker said he had little to say and that he had learned many years ago that the deceased person in the casket had really preached his or her own funeral. He said Aquila had used well the dash between the date of her birth and her death to build a lasting legacy of pointing people toward the Savior and of helping others. May we do the same.
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.