Oh, the wonder of it!

Note: This comment, left by Bill Mouser under the "Oh, the horror of it" post, clearly needed to be promoted to the main page. So here 'tis:

I add this anecdote, because it needs to be preserved somewhere. I heard it from Dr. Richard Beale, who was pastor of First Baptist Church in Tuscon for 52 years. He related it to me when I interned in a church where he had retired.

When Dr. Beale was "prominent" in Tuscon, a woman died who was also prominent on the local scene. She was not a member of his congregation, but Dr. Beale agreed to perform her funeral, which was a huge social occasion. He tells me that he unwisely allowed the local Ladies Club design the service.

All went swimmingly until the graveside. The Ladies Club had composed a flowery prayer which Dr. Beale was to read. At one point in the prayer, there was a phrase about her spirit ascending up to heaven. At this point, Dr. Beale had been instructed to cease speaking, until someone standing by had opened a wicker cage, inside of which reposed two white turtledoves with long white satin ribbons tied to their ankles. The idea was for the turtledoves flying away to present a picture of Ms. Prominent heading off to heaven.

Dr. Beale did as he was instructed. He stopped. The wicker cage was opened, but the turtledoves remained inside. A few gentle jerks didn't dislodge them. So, the turtledove bearer shook the cage violently, whereupon the turtledoves gripped the open edge of the cage, flapped their wings in panic, and made screaming noises that turtledoves make when terrified. Dr. Beale told me that at this point, he was having trouble breathing normally, as he wanted to break out in guffaws.

At last, the wicker cage bearer gave a mighty jerk and the turtledoves turned loose of the cage. But, they dropped to the ground, ran to the open grave (the casket suspended above it) and jumped down into the hole in the ground. Several matrons leaped up, grabbed the ribbons which were still above ground, and pulled the screaming and squawking turtledoves out of the grave. After additional flapping and dragging of turtledoves, they beat a ragged retreat, not heavenward, but toward a stand of bushes running alongside the cemetary

Somehow, Dr. Beale finished the prayer. To me, he wondered out loud if the Lord was not making His own statement about the deceased's destination upon death.

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Definitely worthy of promotion to the main page!

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