Celebration of Life
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
I have never read that verse at a funeral. And in most instances, I would say that it is boarder line inappropriate. Why would you tell people who are mourning to be “joyful always?”
Here’s why I think that it’s okay to break the rule of thumb. I believe that Eric Mertens, like all people was created in the image of God. This is what the Bible tells us in the very beginning. Among other things, I find our God to be rather clever and sometimes, down right ironic. Like many who truly suffer, I experienced Eric to be a joyful person. He was as playful as a toddler, and at times, as awkward as a puppy. This, I believe is a reflection of God. Our God suffered on the cross, yet remained without hate. Eric who indeed endured, reflects the joy of the creator.
I am more of a Colbert, Conan or Fallon-fan, but today I’ll harness my inner David Letterman. This is my top 10 things about Eric that displayed a sense of joy, irony and fun:
10. Eric was a big guy 6’ 5” and 200 plus pounds. Do you know what they say about big guys? But not Eric, he had the smallest feet for a big guy that I’d ever seen!
9. Speaking of Eric’s feet, he always had shoes with swag. Even doing construction, he seamed to always have J’s on. Today I'm wearing my coolest shoes, you well know that Eric wouldn’t be wearing loafers…
8. Eric was a talker. You all know this. But let’s be honest, did you always know what he was talking about? My friend Rob and I were reminiscing and he even said, “ya Eric would say random stuff man.” He spoke about his work "project" so fast and so much that I couldn't keep them straight. Eric had a white truck. He might have told you about it…
7. Eric liked to play with words, especially less common words. Speaking of our friend Rob… Eric would say “Rob Raaaahhhhhhmlow.”
6. Eric and I would meet for breakfast at McDonald’s on Forest Hill Ave. Most of the time we would meet early. Or at least I would get there early. I would sit in our corner booth and wait for his white truck to come romping through the drive through… Sometimes the white truck was actually grey.
5. Eric, had an appetite. I saw him put food down! He was very resourceful in the kitchen. He could cook it up for lunch and dinner. But you know what they say about men with small feet… they don’t eat breakfast. All the times we had breakfast, he never finished his pancakes.
4. Our small group at the church would have game nights, where we pretended to care about board games. Or at our Christmas parties we would play dirty Santa as a gift exchange. I can never remember Eric playing by the rules. I loved it, but it drove those of you who are competitive crazy! Others would get excited about the game, and here comes Eric just playing by his own rules. Of course you can collect the $200 before you pass go. Of course you can spell it out. Of course you can pick it back up in order to play a better card. I want this gift and you can't steal it. Rules of the game don’t mean anything.
3. Eric, well how do you say… he had a voice that carried. At McDonald’s or at church, we would have conversations that I thought were semi-sensitive or even down right private. But I am convinced that the cashier and everyone else in the dinning room could hear every word. What Eric lacked in shoe size, he made up for in vocal capacity.
2. Eric laughed a lot. He had several types of laughs. Of course the loud laugh, the breathless laugh, the he-he laugh, and my favorite was the laugh when no one else is laughing and so he punches you in the arm so hard your sore for a week. How do you remember it? His laugh was the tune of his heart- which was joy.
1. Eric took a ton of photos on his phone. He took photos of his work at the “job site.” He took videos of his dog. He took photos of random things. My favorites are his self-ies with random personas, hats, french fries in his mouth and strange facial expressions. He also took photos of his truck, which now I’m thinking was black- or maybe it was white again... My wife is a photographer. Over the years, I’ve learned that I don’t know very much about the art form. Eric was not a photographer. His photos were never framed well, or in focus. I didn’t know Eric when he was young, but I like to think that he did not color inside the lines. As an adult with a camera phone, he didn’t capture the world inside the lines. His perspective was both genius and hard.
This is that which simultaneously gives us great joy and deep sadness as we celebrate Eric. In the Bible, the book of James encourages a group of people who are experiencing life threatening persecution to “consider it pure joy… in the face of many trials,” that these sufferings produce perseverance. And by persevering in Christ, we will be made perfect. This passage of scripture has always been really hard for me. It never made great sense.
But I believe that Eric was joyful in the face of many trials. As impossible as it may seem, he persevered, and in Christ he is made perfect.