God's Better Place

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
— Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV

This afternoon Shannan and I are going to that “better” place.

Don’t confuse the “better” place with my “happy” place (any car show), or “favorite” place (our home) or “usual” place (Tom Sawyer’s Country Restaurant, our Monday morning breakfast stop).

Okay, but why is the Friday afternoon memorial better than the Saturday night party?

The Preacher of Ecclesiastes supplies just one reason:

For this is the end of all mankind.

The house of mourning is a necessary reminder life is short. For a few minutes we forget titles and bank accounts and social standing. Pauper and potentate sit together. We are all passengers on the same bus. We will all exit sometime.

The memorial is like a big bump in the road. It jars us out of our distracted thoughts and preoccupations. It’s people, not stuff, that counts. Accomplishments and status give way to friendships. Hugs are more intense. Tears more easily flow. Life matters!

Today, I am going to the house of mourning to remember Mrs Billie Underwood, a dear friend and modern-day Hebrews 11 traveler. Billie went to her better place last Saturday.

I’ve known this woman for more than fifty years. Her kids were my friends. She was Mrs. Underwood then. And while the way I addressed her changed over the years, she never changed.

Well, let me revise that. She did change. Dementia sneaked up on her. At first, it just pick-pocketed memories. Then it slipped blinders over her eyes. Finally, it robbed her of reality.

But before Dementia stole into her life — she was the same the person — in all the right ways — from the first time I met her until the last.

When I think of Mrs. Billie Underwood I think about a youth camp I attended with her kids, Raymond, Lynn, and Jeff. Bear with me because my memory might be slipping — this was more than forty years ago.

For years we all attended First Baptist Church, Lake Park, and for years we all went to summer youth camp. One of those camps was Lake George. The camp holds memories for me of games, singing, prayer and pranks, but especially of an artesian well.

The camp owners had sunk what was to me a massive pipe deep down that well and the water just gushed out of it.

Day or night, rain or shine, the water flowed.

  • It didn’t matter how I felt, the water flowed.

  • It didn’t matter how many people were present, the water flowed.

  • It didn’t matter if people were watching, the water flowed.

Billie was like that artesian well. Joy flowed from her life.
  • It didn’t seem to matter how she felt, the joy flowed.

  • It didn’t seem to matter how many people were present, the joy flowed.

  • It didn’t seem to matter if people were watching, the joy flowed.

Billie’s joy was expressed in a ready smile, an easy laugh, and a carefree trust in God; that God really was in charge, really cared for her, and really cared for you too.

I don’t know the underground source of the artesian well near Lake George, but I do know the Source of Billie’s joy. Trace the tributaries and they lead back to God himself.

Nehemiah spoke of God’s joy, a joy that strengthens, encourages, and helps one persevere and love:

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
— Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

That was Billie’s joy; strong, refreshing, life-giving.

Today, I’ll go to that better place. I will celebrate her life, remember her joy, and give thanks to our Savior who supplies it.