We’d never had a resurrection in our town. People died all the time, eight to ten a day on average. All three funeral homes showed up, picked up, fixed up, carried and buried 24/7. A phone call typically started the bury-go-round. So and so is dead. This is what happened. Plans are tentative; check the paper for details. Read the obituary. Read it again because this is someone you knew. Go to the visitation and see people you haven’t seen since the last time someone died. Rearrange your schedule to go to the funeral. Make sure you’ve got enough gas to get to the cemetery. Go. Stand in line to talk to the family. Try say something appropriate. If you have time, go to the wake afterwards and get something to eat since the food is usually pretty good, but try not to have too much fun. Go home or back to work.
But, this funeral was different.
Casey Simon was only nine years old. Cute kid, a bit gangly, oldest boy with one younger sister. Mom and dad both worked locally. Neighborly, honest folks known around town by many. Hard to believe this happened to such a nice family, but, these things happen.
Walter Crowder, an elderly gentleman who lived in a neighboring county, was on the way home from visiting his sister. He never saw Casey. He heard a loud thump when Casey’s bike crashed into his back right side passenger door. Whether the jolt of the crash itself, the tumble over the car roof, or the landing on the hard pavement did it, no one knows, but the boy broke his neck. One moment he was careening gleefully down Mullen’s hill with two friends. The next, much to their shock and dismay, Casey Simon was dead.
The strange thing is that Casey barely had a scratch on him. During the visitation the night before, nearly everyone commented on how peaceful he looked.
“Looks like he’s sleeping,” they said. “Like he’s going to wake up any moment.”
One could almost imagine his hand shifting or eye flitting. Maybe a yawn, and then a roll over with a gentle tug on the covers. But nope, little Casey was dead.
His parents decided to have an open casket funeral at the church. They should have been deciding what to feed Casey for lunch, or reminding him to wear sunscreen to the pool, or hollering “Turn down the volume down on that video game or I’m going to unplug it and throw the whole thing away.”
Instead, they were picking out a casket, clothes, songs and scriptures, and making decisions a family this young should never have to make.
“Is this where we want to be buried? What if we move? What about Susie? Should we buy a plot for her, too?”
The church was typical. Small foyer, center aisle, rows of shellacked wooden pews with 2-inch padded cushions. A raised platform with an altar across the front and a pulpit in the center. A large cross on the back wall.
The casket sat in front of the altar. The myriad flower arrangements graced every available nook and cranny across the front of the sanctuary. The cards were mostly simple.
“Love always, Mom, Dad, and Susie.”
“From Mrs. Pickle’s Fourth Grade Class.”
“First City Bank, in memory of Casey Simon.”
“The Tigers, Jersey 17 forever yours.”
After the family entered and Mrs. Margaret finished singing “I Come To the Garden Alone” – her staple funeral tune for several decades – the preacher stood up in the pulpit, Bible in hand, and scanned the congregation.
“We have come here today to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Casey Simon, nine-year old son of Steve and Beth Simon, and brother of Susie Simon. The shock of this tragedy has touched us all deeply, and in ways some of us have never experienced and hope never to experience again. Thankfully, most of us believe that even in the face of the darkest, blackest hour, Casey not only has a hope, but the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. In Him, we trust that Casey will experience beauty, joy, and freedom beyond our wildest imaginations. We also trust that our Savior will grant us comfort, grace, and peace, both now and during the days ahead.”
Then, the pastor leaned one arm on the pulpit.
“I want to express to all of you that I know the Simon’s have greatly appreciated your prayers and generosity. Your gifts of food, taking care of their home and pitching in to help with various other duties, and your simple presence have made this terrible time more bearable. I am personally grateful to have witnessed this community of faith loving one another like a living Bible. God’s Word is wonderful, and God’s people living out His Word as you have done is beautiful. If every Christian acted every day like you have acted over the past few days, the whole world could be positively impacted in a matter of months.”
Then, the pastor paused and laid down his Bible.
“But, I am troubled. I don’t want to preach this funeral. This is too beautiful a day for Casey Simon to be dead. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and Casey is supposed to play ball this afternoon. He and Susie are supposed to get in fight tonight about what to watch on TV. Beth just finished sewing patches on his favorite jeans and Steve just borrowed a new video game to try out with him this week. The Tigers need Casey in position every game this season. His teachers need to see his gap- toothed grin answering “Here!” during roll call every school day for the rest of the year. Plus, our youth group is going to Six Flags on Saturday and Casey already has a ticket, a buddy, and a reserved seat on the bus. I don’t believe this is either the time or the place for Casey Simon to be dead, and I can’t imagine that God needs Casey right now more than we do.”
Then, the pastor stepped out from behind the pulpit, around the end of the altar, and walked up to the casket.
“Casey Simon,” he proclaimed in a loud voice, “in the name of Jesus Christ, arise!”
The whole congregation gasped! They stared in shock at the dead body in the casket, and glanced furtively at his family as they struggled with the insane idea that this man of faith would so brazenly wound the family and everyone else with this sort of dramatic stunt. And for what purpose?
In that moment, the preacher seemed barbaric, and his funeral tactic cruel and senseless. What preacher in their right mind would actually try to recreate a scene from the Gospels in real life? This was a real dead person and a real funeral, not an Easter play.These were sincerely grieved family and friends, not spectators. This was the twenty-first century in a civilized, technologically advanced country. Did the preacher, or anyone else for that matter, actually expect God to act publicly in this way in this town on this day by raising this boy, or anyone else, really, back from dead before the Rapture? Almost everyone else in the sanctuary had other plans and appointments shortly, and surely God must have other things to do on Thursdays at 11:10 a.m.
But, Casey sat up.
Three days after madly crashing his bike into a moving car, breaking his neck, being pronounced dead, having his obituary published in the paper, and having his cold, lifeless body placed in a coffin for viewing, eulogizing, and burying, Casey Simon sat up, stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyes, and looked around the room. He saw his parents, and smiled; his sister, and frowned; then scanned the congregation and locked eyes with the preacher.
“I’ll bet you’re hungry, aren’t you son?” the preacher asked quietly, as he smiled and held out his hand.
“Starving,” Casey answered, taking his hand. “And why is everybody staring at me?”
At that moment, the congregation rushed forward. His family, relatives and friends all crowded around, and the entire room exploded with the noise of people laughing, crying, calling and texting on their phones, and taking pictures.
The group eventually moved to the fellowship hall. The preacher thanked God for the food and for Casey’s return to life on this earth, and then everyone formed a line and began to load up their plates to eat. They even let Casey go first.
Everyone came by to see him, to touch him, to talk to him and make sure for themselves that he was real, and really alive.
By 12:45 p.m., Casey was playing outside with his friends. By 3:00 p.m., the crowds had dispersed, the kitchen was clean, and the church vacant – except for an empty coffin no longer needed by its formerly dead occupant.
That night, that most wonderful of nights, the nine-year old slept at home, alive and peacefully in his own bed in his own house with his own family, following the most unforgettable day ever in our little town – the day of Casey Simon’s resurrection.
Published in Meat and Potatoes for the Soul, Copyright © 2013 by K. Lynn Lewis.