My good friend, Rev. Ward Tanneberg, who lives in Issaquah, Washington, writes a blog titled, “Perspective: Living, Learning and Leading in Life’s Third Age”. In a recent blog post, he shared a story that has appeared over the years in various forms. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, I thought it would be appropriate to retell the story:
There once was an old man who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. As he was getting his affairs in order, he contacted his pastor to come to his home where they would discuss his final wishes.
He told his pastor which songs he wanted sung at the service and what scriptures he would like read. He even shared what outfit he wanted to be buried in when the time came.
Everything was in order. But as the pastor was preparing to leave, the old man suddenly remembered something very important.
“There’s one more thing,” he said excitedly.
“What’s that?” the pastor asked.
“This is very important,” the old man said. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The pastor stared at the old man, not knowing quite what to say.
“This surprises you doesn’t it,” the old man said.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The man explained. “In all my years of attending church 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 hugged the old man good-bye. She knew this would be one of the last times she would see him before his death.
But she also knew the man had a better grasp of heaven than she did. He had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people. He knew because of his faith and the joy of Easter that something better was prepared by God.
At the funeral, people were walking by the old man’s casket and they saw the suit he was wearing and the fork placed in his right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over the pastor smiled.
During her message, the pastor told the people of the conversation she had with the old man shortly before he died. She also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to him.
The pastor told the people how she could not stop thinking about the fork and told them they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.
She was right. This Easter, when you are sitting down to eat your Easter dinner and you reach down for your fork, let it remind you — ever so gently — the best is yet to come.
Dr. Richard Gentzler, director, oversees ENCORE Ministry’s mission of providing older adult ministry resources, leader training, and consultations. For more information, email Gentzler at email@example.com or call 615-400-0539.