This past week has been filled with sorrow and joy as the passing of one of our church family members and best friends cut deep. Death and feeling the void of that person in our lives is hard on all of us who are left behind. But as believers in Christ we can also rejoice when one of our brothers or sisters in Christ dies because we know that they are in the presence of Jesus and that we will get to see them again one day soon.
I had the privilege of walking with Charlotte Kee this first week since her husband, Edmund, died. I got to see first hand some of God’s promises being poured out on her as she was given supernatural strength, wisdom, and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Sure, there were many moments of crying and mourning but through it Charlotte would proclaim God’s goodness and sovereignty. Her prayer was that God would be glorified in Edmund’s death even more than He was in Edmund’s life. What a powerful prayer from a widow who had lost her husband only days before.
In the days after Edmund’s passing many people came by the house to comfort and console Charlotte. Many times it was Charlotte that would console them. On Thursday night Charlotte held a viewing. People began arriving at 4 pm and for the next 6 hours Charlotte stood at the end of Edmund’s casket, dressed to the nines in six inch heels, looking stunning (dressed for Edmund, of course!), and hugging every person who came to pay their respects. I stood close by to pray and watch over Charlotte in case she ever reached a breaking point but she never did. She just smiled, hugged and thanked people. Hundreds of people filtered through the funeral home that night. Some stood in line for over an hour before they made their way up to where Charlotte and Edmund were. At one point someone told me that the line was all the way out of the funeral home and into the parking lot. There was no doubt this man had an impact on the lives of others.
The next day I arrived early at the church where his funeral would be held. I had been asked by Charlotte to sing at the funeral (especially fitting as I also sang at their wedding). Her request was to have a full out worship gathering at Edmund’s funeral. She knew that his death would bring many people together and she wanted them to hear the gospel and experience God’s presence. She wanted God to be lifted high in Edmund’s death just as He was in his life and she prayed for God to save all those who would attend who didn’t know Jesus.
The funeral began with the Eulogy and was followed by testimonies from people who represented the different circles and times in Edmund’s life with the final testimony being given by Charlotte. She was strong and courageous as she shared about her love for Edmund and she was bold as she shared how his heart’s desire and passion was that everyone who came in contact with him would come to know Jesus. She ended her testimony talking about how Edmund loved to worship God through music and then proceeded to invite them to join her in a time of worship together. What happened next was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever witnessed and it’s a picture that will forever be engraved in my mind.
Pastor Rob introduced the first worship song by reading a blog post Edmund had written in 2009 about the song “How He Loves” by John Marc McMillan. Edmund wrote about how the song had impacted him deeply during a very difficult time and how the Lord’s presence and love had swept over him during a time of worship through this song. I had my eyes closed after the reading of the blog post when Pastor Rob opened up the time of worship in prayer. As we began singing that song, I looked up to see 600+ people standing before us. And I saw Charlotte on the front row standing before Edmund’s casket, hand’s raised high in worship.
Then Pastor Rob delivered the message of the Gospel and invited people to give their lives to Jesus and many people responded. Over the next twenty-four hours we began to hear stories about how people were deeply moved by Edmund’s life and funeral. In addition to some receiving salvation, more began to wonder and ask about this faith that Edmund and Charlotte have and even who this Jesus is that they are so in love with.
On Saturday we concluded the reflection of Edmund’s life with a celebration of his life at Eiffel Society (where Edmund and Charlotte had their wedding reception just 10 months ago and one of the swankiest clubs in NOLA located in the heart of Uptown on St. Charles Avenue). Once again there were testimonies and with each testimony not only did each person share about the impact Edmund had on their lives but how God had used Edmund to lead them closer to the Lord.
Pastor Rob shared about who Jesus is and talked about the misrepresentation of Him and Christianity. He explained that they had seen true Christianity reflected in Edmund and while Edmund was not perfect, he was real and he loved Jesus. He also shared that Jesus was a friend to sinners and that while people might let us down, Jesus never would. He concluded by inviting them to come to Vintage to learn more about who Jesus is and the difference He can make in their lives, giving them hope for their past, present and future. Finally he closed in prayer.
Then the DJ began playing music and the night continued with a dance party celebration that rivaled a wedding celebration. There is no doubt in my mind that Heaven was dancing and celebrating along with us as we know Edmund was received this week into the Lord’s presence hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).