I read recently about a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and was given three months to live. Her doctor told her to make preparations to die, so she contacted her pastor and told him how she wanted things arranged for her funeral service – which songs she wanted to have sung, what Scriptures should be read, what words should be spoken – and that she wanted to be buried with her favorite Bible.
But before he left, she called out to him, “One more thing.”
“This is important. I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The pastor did not know what to say. No one had ever made such a request before. So she explained. “In all my years going to church functions, whenever food was involved, my favorite part was when whoever was cleaning dishes of the main course would lean over and say, “You can keep your fork.”
“It was my favorite part because I knew that it meant something great was coming. It wasn’t Jell-O. It was something with substance – cake or pie – biblical food.
So I just want people to see me there in my casket with a fork in my hand, and I want them to wonder – what’s with the fork? Then I want you to tell them, “Something better is coming. Keep your fork.”
The pastor hugged the woman good-bye. And soon after, she died.
At the funeral service people saw the dress she had chosen, saw the Bible she loved, and heard the songs she loved, but they all asked the same question: “What’s with the fork?”
The pastor explained that this woman, their friend, wanted them to know that for her – or for anyone who dies in Christ – this is not a day of defeat. It is a day of celebration. The real party is just starting.
Something better is coming.
So this week why not make the humble fork your own personal icon? Each time you sit down to a meal, take a look at the utensil on the left side of your plate, and remember the woman who took one to her casket. When you pause to give thanks for the food, give thanks for your hope as well. Each time you wrap your fingers around the handle of a fork, remember: “Something better is coming.”
Remember that the God of water-walking and empty tombs has a message for you. Jesus says to all who labor and are heavy-laden:
To all who get discouraged or fall into temptation,
To anyone whose mind ever strays to dreamless trifles,
To people like you and me who are tempted to despair or lose hope,
He still says,
Don’t look down.
Keep your fork.
-John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat