Reflecting on the Beautiful Life Dawood Abdelmessih

Last week I had the privilege of sharing at my uncle’s funeral service. While I don’t literally remember exactly what I said, here’s my best attempt at a written eulogy and some thoughts on his life and ours.

Dawood (David) Boutros Abdelmessih – September 7, 1935 – February 1, 2010

We’ve come with such heavy hearts. In all the years and in all the funerals I’ve been to, I am always stunned by how much each service hurts.  Probably because among other reasons, the pain reminds us of love.
Each time we enter the season of grieving, our heavy hearts remind us of that the superficial things of life will fade. We are reminded of the things that we have organized and centered our lives around are so trivial. If we were feeling numb, it’s during grief that we feel again. We are awoken by the pain of it all.
But worst of all – Death reminds us that we are not in control.
the reason we have gathered in a church is not out of tradition. The reason for which we pray is not out of piety and the reason we sing is not due to preference.
I know we have have lost someone very special and dear to us – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle and a dear friend to many but today
A son has returned home to his heavenly Father.

I Corinthians 15:50-58 tells us quite emphatically that death is not in control
For the Christian, this is also a day of celebration for today is a day of salvation.

Many things come to mind when I think of my uncle. The picture to the left of the casket was very appropriate as his smile shone through.
I remember him being a very tender and loving soul. I think of him and his music and how he loved songs. I’ve always wondered what is about a song that is so powerful? It is more than words and a tune. I think of how we play certain ones over and over. How we project ourselves into them and think of them as soundtracks for our lives. I think of how we reflect on them and how we are anxious to share them with each other. What is it about a song that makes it so beautiful?

I remember it was Christmas day and I was about 10 and everyone was staying over our home. I had gone to bed and had been awoken by the playing of a piano. I’m sure it sounded great, but when you’re 10 you have little appreciation for such talent. All I knew was that I was sleeping and someone was banging away at the piano. I got out of bed, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and sought out the man responsible for waking me from my slumber. I saw my uncle playing away and as a bratty 10 year old, I told him that it was late and he couldn’t play the piano at this time of night.

I remember realizing that he seemed quite oblivious to the time of night and I remember him cupping his hands around my face and saying he was sorry that he woke me up. I also remember thinking that his reaction made it difficult to remain angry with him. I returned to bed, got under my covers, adjusted my pillow, closed my eyes, took a deep breath and resolved to fall back asleep. It was at that moment, the piano resumed playing. I couldn’t believe it. I now know that a musician needs to finish the song.

I reflect on my favorite songs and my favorite melodies and my favorite words. Among them is Mark 12:29-31. In a lot of ways, Scripture is a lot like a brilliant song. You think about it, memorize it sometimes, imagine your life in it, etc. To love God and to love others is a song I hope to keep singing. Indeed, it’s one for all of us and frankly I believe it’s the song that makes all the difference. Who is it that I truly love with all of my heart? It is myself, is it my God, is it my wife, kids, family? Is it in loving God, I am able to love my family better? Understanding what we love reveals a great deal about us. It tells us who is the god/God of our lives.

The night before the funeral, I kept asking my cousin Ayman what his dad’s favorite song was. He kept saying that there were so many, it was impossible for his dad to pick one. As he is a talented piano player as well, he explained that there were just too many songs to pick from. However, my cousin remembered one of the last songs his dad played on the piano. The whole family had gathered and my uncle, frail and a bit weak made his way over to the piano. I imagine he felt that they were made for each other and the most natural thing to do was to play. He chose an old Arabic hymn that was about rejoicing about the day one accepts Jesus as their Savior.

My cousin kept saying that there are just too many amazing songs and it’s impossible to pick one. And that got me thinking – Our lives are like songs and God loves them all. Sadly, there are short songs, and there are longer ones. I wonder, if our lives are like songs, what kind of song are our lives playing today?

Have you ever heard a song that started appealing but as it played, it seemed to have lost its way?
Or have you ever heard a song that you weren’t sure about from the beginning but as it continued, as it went into the chorus, and the second verse, and as it built, it was just amazing!? I wonder if that’s the song of the repentant, the forgiven the song of the second chance.

Days of grief move differently. Time takes on a different type of pace. In the strangeness of it is an appropriate time for all of us to take inventory of our lives and reflect on the type of life or the type of song our lives are singing.

My uncle loved music, he loved singing songs. But because of death, his body can no longer sing.
But the beauty of death for the believer is that it cannot silence the soul.  For again, death is not in control, and this is the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus.  Psalm 40:3 says, that God “has put a new song in my mouth” and while my uncle could not choose a favorite song in this world, I like to imagine that this new song is his favorite.

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