I want to explain as much as I can about the actual service that we held for Ben. It was, beyond a doubt, one of the most beautiful, powerful, and painful experiences of my life. For those of you who weren’t there, I hope this gives you a taste of what it was like. For those of you who were there, I hope this post helps you to recapture or to see what Pam and I were thinking and feeling.
I chose to open the funeral with “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2. Ben is my son, my son who is waiting for me in heaven. No other song takes me to the very threshold of heaven as this one. I was so nervous to play a rock song at the funeral, and when it started my doubts disappeared: the funeral started with a chance to rock out with my son to a song about the place I believe he is right now. As soon as the song started, Edge’s guitar breaks the groan of the organ and introduces Jesus’ final message into the darkness and decay: this is not it. There is something more.
After the song, Pastor Brian spoke. You can read his full message by clicking here. I asked Brian to say my son’s name again and again: I will never grow tired of his name. And Brian did. He looked at me again and again saying the full name of my son as he pointed Pam and I to Jesus and the hope of the resurrection.
Brian read to us from the story of Lazarus, Jesus friend who died. Right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he turned to Mary and said, “Do you believe that I am the resurrection and the life?” When Brian read this passage, my reaction was swift.
Loud enough for everyone at the funeral and God himself to hear I said, “Yes, I believe.” I will never forget saying those three words. It was as if it was my last effort to plead with God to raise my son from the dead. I just wanted God to see my heart.
Then my sister read a poem she wrote for Ben. I will post her poem soon on this blog. It’s truly amazing. There are few things that I feel are divine and inspired directly from God. This is one of those miracles. The poem is perfect, and my sister read it with clarity and rage.
When she was done my dad read something that he wrote. You can read what he said by clicking here. It’s amazing. My father loved my son.
When dad was done we sang “Be Thou My Vision”. This is one of my favorite hymns. Are there moments when you have been in a group of people and you have heard the complete fullness of people singing together? A couple years ago I saw U2 play after 911. When they sang, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I clearly remember stopping and listening to the crowd sing the chorus. It was amazing! At my son’s funeral, 50 people sang “Be Thou My Vision” with more full volume than 20,000 people at that U2 show I saw. It was an eternal instant. Heaven ripped into that room.
High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’ns Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.
After that we played U2’s Walk On, a version they did for a 911 fundraiser. At the end of this version Bono screams out to people who died in 911, “I’ll see you when I go home!” over and over. Bono is saying that when he dies and goes to heaven, we will see those we have lost and love. Because of Jesus, there is hope after death. But the core message of Walk On is that Pam and I must keep going because we love our son. We need to fight the fight, even if that fight means just getting out of bed, taking it one step at a time.
I wish I would have raised my arms in worship to God while it was playing. It was perfect.
After that song we closed the funeral with one final song, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. The song is “Hallelujah” originally by Leonard Cohen. The version Pam and I choose was sung in Italian, because there are no words for the pain and the loss that we felt. We needed something to close our second and last time with Ben that transcended words. This song was perfect. Here is a video of that very song.
Pam is the one that wanted to close Ben’s funeral with this. It was more than perfect. There just aren’t words. Our only words to God are “Hallelujah”. It’s all we can muster.
When this 45 minute service was over my heart broke again. It was time to take my son to his grave.