Preparing the Body for Burial

It was a beautiful fall day in 1970 when we learned that Little Tate was coming to dinner.  He could hardly be called little anymore.  He was the son of Tate and Brown, our aunt and uncle, a freshman at East Carolina University, full of himself, full of life and promise.  His parents had waited to marry until after WW 2 so he was the prized child of old age, a success in high school, untouched by the drug culture, HIV, constant sex-immersion – all the ills of  decades to come.

He was coming to dinner!  I marshaled my younger kids – get out the long table, the white tablecloth with the lace covering, the $125 water goblets from my grandmother, the best china and all the best serving dishes.  Being from small families my husband and I had few relatives for meals.  This was a treat.

It was truly a day when nothing went wrong.  Little Tate was full of the hope only an 18 year old could have as he prepared for a radio and TV career, personable, friendly, easy to like.  My children enjoyed him as though he were an older brother. When the sun started to set he headed back to school.

We had no reason to believe this would be the last time we saw him alive, but he got on the back of a motorcycle without a helmet (it was not against the law then) and before October was finished he was dead.  It was a terrible blow.  Our aunt and uncle never really got over it but we had something – we had the celebration of preparing for his burial.

The story of the woman wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair with a costly perfume which represented about one year’s wages is something Jesus said “would be remembered forever.”  Isn’t it interesting that we speak of this without really knowing what it means?  It is a memorial of a special life prior to death, not a morbid sad time filled with the regrets of loss and hopes dashed.  It was the costly elaborate celebration of a life well lived.

Jesus, like Little Tate, died before his expected time, a child of promise, loved and loving, a special person with a future.  It was our unique privilege and blessing that we could say goodbye in this spectacular way.  And like the woman at Jesus’ feet, completely unaware of what we were doing or how soon his death would occur.

When I told of this blessing to my friend from Grandfather Mountain she said, “Oh, I had a day like that with an old woman.  We spent an afternoon looking for one button to replace on her winter coat.”  And then the woman died rather unexpectedly.

How many of us have rued the day we neglected to call someone or write, or send a note – thinking of you – only to learn later they had gone without our hearing a single word.  One Christian artist sings, “No Regrets” – If we celebrate another’s life before they go, we should have no regrets.

Mark 14:7-9 New King James Version (NKJV)7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

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