The Best is Yet to Come
I hope you were able to attend the funeral service for the Rev. Denson Franklin recently. Denson served this parish well for many years, and his faith, love, and abundant pastoral skills were a blessing to countless folks, including me. A packed church gave witness to the impact that this fine man and wonderful pastor had upon so many. Denson’s courage and faith as death approached was an inspiration to all of us, and it reminded me of one of my favorite stories.
A pastor’s phone rang one day. On the other end was Katherine, one of the oldest members of his congregation, and one of the most faithful. "Aunt Katie," the kids called her. She radiated faith, hope, and love wherever she went. This time, however, her tone was a serious one. "Pastor, could you stop by? I need to see you." Of course, he agreed, and the afternoon found them in Katie's cozy parlor. As they sat facing one another in the little room, Katie shared her somber news. Her doctor had discovered a tumor. "He says I have perhaps six months to live," she said with calm seriousness. "Oh, Katie, I'm so sorry..." her pastor began, but she cut him off. "Don't be," said Katie. "The Lord has been good. I've had a wonderful life. I'm ready to go." Stunned, the pastor could only nod. "But I want to talk about my funeral," she continued. "There are many things I want." They talked quietly for some time, discussing Katie's favorite hymns, and the passages of scripture which had been precious to her over the years.
When all seemed settled, Katie suddenly brightened, and with the old sparkle in her eyes, she said, "One more thing, Pastor. When I'm buried, I want a bible in one hand and a fork in the other." "A fork? Whatever for?" asked the pastor, sure he had misunderstood. "Well, I've been thinking," Katie said, "about all those church dinners I've gone to over the years, way too many to count. At every dinner, as the meal was ending, a server would come around to collect our plates. I can hear the words now. Often, that person would lean over my shoulder and whisper, 'You can keep your fork.' And I knew what that meant -- dessert was coming! And not a cup of Jell-O or pudding or even ice cream. You didn't need a fork for that. No, it meant the good stuff, like apple pie or cherry cobbler! When they told me to keep my fork, I knew the best was yet to come!"
"And that's what I want you to say at my funeral. Oh, you can speak of the good times we shared together. That would be nice. But when folks walk by my casket, and look at my pretty yellow dress, I want them to look at one another and ask, 'Why the fork?' And then I want you to tell them, Pastor. Tell them Katie kept her fork, because she knew the best is yet to come."
Scores of you have told me what Denson meant to you, and shared stories about times he was critically important in your lives. What a legacy for any man or woman of God! As you and I gratefully remember this good man who blessed and brightened our lives, may we be inspired by his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be strengthened with the legacy and message of his life. Truly he knew that "the best is yet to come."
Thanks be to God!