We take an extended, larger family vacation every other year and this year is the “off year.”  So, our vacation this year consists of a number of romantic week-ends and family outings sprinkled throughout the summer. The first of these was supposed to be a “four-day weekend” with just Linda and me, but it got interrupted by a funeral — the spouse of a friend of my wife’s from work died after a long battle with diabetes. 

As you might guess, we felt both obliged to attend the funeral, and glad that we could attend — and gypped out of our planned time together.  We literally laughed and cried about all the above. 

Enough time has passed now that I can reflect more objectively on it all.  “Vacationing at a funeral” is not something we would plan, but, come to think of it, it did have many of the markings of what one does plan when one plots out a vacation schedule.  Think about it: 1) time together, check; 2) break from the normal routine, check; 3) time and place for deeper, substantive conversation, check; 4) fun time to laugh (and cry) with old friends and some new ones, check; and finally, 5) chance to recalibrate and re-gauge one’s deeper life commitments, walk with God, relationship with one another, and re-consider, “Are we living the well-lived life we desire and feel called of God to live?,” check. 

Ecclesiastes says,  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes itto heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)

I have contemplated these lines before this “vacation experience.” But I don’t know that I really believed them, or lived the truth of these words before now; that is, before attending a funeral as part of our summer vacation.

I have also heard of some people (including my grandparents, as I recall from childhood) taking a Sunday afternoon picnic to the cemetery, spending the afternoon reading, contemplating, and talking about the inscriptions on the gravestones.  It’s a bit morbid, I know — but think Ecclesiastes.  Is there wisdom to be found in such a practice?

So, what do you think — good idea?  Should we plan to incorporate mourning and funerals into our vacation periods more regularly? . . .  

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

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