New York State Funeral Directors Association

Last week, I served a family that was particularly injured by the actions of the decedent during her lifetime.

She was an older woman, and during her youth and young adult life, she had departed from the traditions of her family. This abandonment caused strife and other difficulties for her siblings and children.

As funeral day approached, I became familiar with the lingering pain anchored within the broken hearts of this family.

For some, anger was their fiercest emotion, yet others writhed in pain and insecurity. As our procession began making its way to the cemetery, I rounded a corner in the road and saw a truck headed toward me.

I wondered if the driver would observe the respectful tradition of pulling to the side while the family procession drove passed.

Almost immediately, the driver engaged his blinker. Others behind him followed his lead, and soon, many vehicles had pulled off the road to offer respect for the pain and anguish suffered by the survivors.

I looked in my rear view mirror and saw many procession drivers flicker their headlights in gratitude for this traditional display of respect.

As we were nearing our destination, we passed two men working on the side of the road. They were harvesting wood to sell for added income.

Upon seeing us, the two men immediately removed their hats, stopped working, put their hands behind their backs, and bowed their heads as we passed - another traditional expression of deep respect.

The Pastor offered a final prayer to dedicate the grave, and my husband engaged our sound system to play “How Great Thou Art.”

As the music began, the decedent’s daughter rose to her feet and started singing the beautiful words, “Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder…”

One by one, everyone in attendance joined her impromptu performance and sang “How Great Thou Art” from start to finish.

As they sang, they clasped hands, laid their cheeks upon each other’s shoulders, and wiped away each other's tears of anguish as they spilled.

The words of this amazing song, as well as the respect offered along the drive to this broken family, had brought about a miracle.

In the 20 minutes it took to drive to the cemetery and sing a song of praise, their burdens were lifted, and forgiveness restored God’s comfort and love within their souls.

The decedent’s adult children and siblings openly expressed their amazement as they were moved by the swell of comfort and love that had rushed into their beings at the conclusion of their interment services.

They reviewed their experience looking for answers to understand the dissipation of their burdens. The answer was simple.

It was the miracle of forgiveness.

As the survivors witnessed others demonstrate respect toward them during their time of need, their hearts softened.

The beautiful words of “How Great Thou Art” testified of Christ’s divine mercy for all of God’s creatures - even the lost, even their decedent - and allowed them to let go of their pain through forgiveness.

At the conclusion of their services, their lives were restored with the abiding grace and light of their Savior.

Their souls were filled with relief and joy, and their pain and anguish had been washed away.

I saw it happen.

Where there had been darkness, sadness, and insecurity just moments before, now resided happiness, secure knowledge, and the lasting comfort and light of Christ.

In 20 minutes, I saw forgiveness wash away their past burdens and clear their future for brighter days.

I saw a miracle - the miracle of forgiveness.

Tracy LeeTracy Lee
Tracy Renee Lee is owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas. The author, syndicated columnist and co-founder of Heaven Sent Corp. writes books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. An American Funeral Director of the Year runner-up and recipient of the BBB's Integrity Award, Lee writes the blog Mourning Coffee.