My father died last week. His funeral was Saturday morning, at my parents' church.
It was a beautiful, clear day. Members of the Swedish men's chorus my dad had belonged to showed up. They sang three songs. My dad's two older sisters were there, my mom's older sister and younger brother, and a number of cousins, too. There were friends of my parents there, some who had known them since they were first married well over fifty years ago. I thought I was doing pretty well until one of my cousins came up to me, just before the service started, and said, with tears in her eyes, "I am going to miss your dad."
I sat between my mother and my sister. She sang alto on all the hymns. I tried to sing high tenor on a couple of them, but I don't reach the high notes like I used to. Besides, I was crying. My nephew, who leads a local rock band, played a portion of the song "Misty" as part of the remembrances. He learned "Misty" just because his grandfather liked that song.
After the service and the luncheon, we all went home to rest for awhile.
Then, later in the evening, I drove up to my mom's house, where my sister was staying for the week. The three of us drove from there to my brother's house. Then my brother drove all four of us to a bar where my nephew's band was head-lining. He was supposed to go on at 10:00 p.m. A couple of my cousins joined us as well.
So there we were, at 10:00 p.m., sitting around a dark, smoky room, munching appetizers and drinking iced tea, listening to noisy and unknown (to us) bands, waiting for my nephew to appear. One of my cousins was teasing my mom about whether she would be part of the "mosh pit" (terminology that I had just recently learned). Later on, when my nephew started, we made our way up to the stage, where the beat of the drums and the bass made our hearts skip. We watched my nephew as he took on his "rock star" personality. At one point, my nephew used bad language. One of my cousins reached out to cover my mom's ears.
All of us think my nephew is very talented. We are all very proud of him. But, to be honest, for at least some of us, this was not "our kind of music". It also wasn't the kind of venue that we would probably think of attending on our own. We weren't there because we were hard rock music fans.
We were there because of love.
Especially I think of my mom. She's never been a big fan of bars. In fact, until her grandson started playing music there, I'm not sure she ever set foot in one. But there she was, until all hours of the night. She wouldn't have been any other place.
When I think about the mission of the church, why it succeeds, why it fails, I don't think it has to do so much with strategy as it has to do with love. It doesn't matter what kind of strategy you have, if you don't have love that will impel you to go places you would never otherwise go, and do things you would never otherwise do. It's as simple, and as difficult, as that.
So, on Saturday, my mother went to church for a funeral for her husband. And she went to a bar for a rock concert by her grandson.
That is what love looks like.