I’ve been reflecting upon an experience I had nearly a year ago in June of 2018. One of my pastoral colleagues had unexpectedly passed away in the southern part of the state and, because of our close relationship over the years, I had been asked by his family to present a tribute at his funeral.
Admittedly, I had anxiety over the prospect of delivering a eulogy in a setting where there would many other colleagues more qualified than I to honor this great man. As I entered the funeral home and approached the casket which contained his earthly remains, a smile crept across my face at what I beheld that, at first glance, appeared to be out of place. There in the pocket of his coat was a fork – that’s right, a simple eating utensil. I smiled because I knew the story behind that awkward gesture and thought: “Yes, that’s just like my friend to leave behind a comforting expression of HOPE and anticipation.
The original story behind this simple act appeared first in Guidepost magazine a number of years ago but has surfaced repeatedly in one form or another. I’ve included the story below so you, too, will understand the meaning.
“There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" came the Pastor's reply.
"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."
The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.
"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.
The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!"
So, I just want people to see me there in that 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: "Keep your fork … the best is yet to come."
The Pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.
He was right. So, the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.”
Now you know the reason for my friend’s final gesture. He possessed REAL. HOPE. NOW. and he desired to communicate that hope one last time to all who would pay their final respects to him.
The Apostle Peter admonished: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the HOPE that you have…”
Do you have that hope within? Can you honestly say that for you “the best is yet to come”? As always, reach out to one of our staff should you have questions or concerns. We’d be delighted to show you how you, too, can know the One who is our Hope!