A Welcomed Interruption!
"I want the orange mike!" That's what a 3-4 year old boy said as he climbed the pulpit steps at my cousin Jonathan "Jon Jon" Jay Forte's home going service just before Eric Dawkins of the famous urban gospel duo "Dawkins and Dawkins" graced the audience with a beautiful rendition of "There Is a Place".
Dawkins politely gave way to the sharply dressed young clamoring lad who was determined to crash this funeral party unfolding at the Greater Zion Temple Family Worship Center in Steubenville, Ohio.
By the way, my family vacationed in Hershey, PA back in 2014 for Spring break. The trip was fun and filled with great expectations, but I could have paid off a small loan with the money I spent driving through the Ohio/Pennsylvania turnpike. I never thought I'd be running the gauntlet again as I learned that Columbus, Ohio would not be the destination burial place for my dear first cousin killed in a head-on-collision car accident in Kuwait.
Jon Jon! That's what I remember hearing everyone call him growing up. Of all my late uncle John's sons and daughters, Jon Jon was the one who looked more like my mom's third and next to last brother who passed away in the famous year Prince made popular in his hit song 1999. The news of Jon Jon's death shook my mom so that she insisted that we make the trip so that she could represent the only siblings of uncle John's brothers and sisters able to attend.
So there we were. There I was. Sitting in the pulpit of the church ready to take in the sweet melodic offering of an artist my brothers and I have admired ever since he and his brother hit the airwaves back in 1993 with hit songs following in 1994 like: Faithful, Word Up, Forgiven, Need to Know, Praisin' On My Mind, to their latest release after 13 years, Pray for Me. And what do you know, we were all about to be surprised by a much more delightful tune we've all sung at some point in our lives. But never in this setting.
At first, I thought this must be little Eric Dawkins joining his dad on stage. I'm still not sure if I was right about the identity of this little guy. Nevertheless, somehow he was drawn to the stage at the same time Eric took to the mike and he wasn't coming down until after he said his piece.
Then there he was… standing with the orange head covered mike in his hand. The next thing you know, everybody at the funeral was singing the ABC song. No, this wasn't Michael Jackson and/or the Jackson 5's stepping version of "ABC… easy as 1-2-3". No, this was A-B-C-D-E-F-G… The one that ends with "now I know my ABC's next time won't you sing with me."
If only I'd pulled the video camera out in time to capture this phenomenal moment. Thanks to this little voice in the making, I was opportunistic enough to get the iPhone set to capture Eric on camera in time to share him with you. Of course, you'll have to download the Zion City App to check him out.
As I set there thinking about Jon Jon, I thought to myself how remarkable life is. Here we are celebrating the life of a god-fearing, god-family-loving, bigger than life smiling man who most would consider died far too young at 49. And here's a 3 or 4 year old baby taking to the stage to let the world in on the fact that he knows his ABC's. This never would have happened at another funeral right? I mean there have been times when my kids would break free in service and make their way to the pulpit, but never at a funeral. Even in a traditional church setting somebody was always there to grab them and carry or usher them back to their seats safely tucked away from the front of the crowd.
Thanks to Eric's resolve and demeanor, he gave space for this young child to share this special moment with us. Everybody just laughed and smiled and filled the room with applause after the toddler left us with those words in his heart "next time won't you sing with me."
Yes, next time. How about next time? Will there even be a "next time?" How about we sing "this time?" How about we leave space for those we care about right now to speak to us, to share with us, to grab the mike and say what the Lord has put in and on their heart to say? No matter how simple or elementary? No matter how untimely, unexpected, and unorthodox?
It would have been easy to assume that this child has nothing to say. This is out of line. Where is his parents for crying out loud? This is preposterous! We're at a funeral!
Yes, we were at a funeral. Sadly, too many of us are so dead to life (even though we are physically alive) that a little life at our funeral may not be such a bad idea for those we will leave behind. Jon Jon would have loved this! If only we could get back to the days where we were unabashedly unashamed and excited to tell the world in a simple melody "now I know my ABC's."
The ABC's of godly love, compassion, grace, understanding, forgiveness…
The older I get, the more I see, the less serious I take myself, and the more serious I am about things I take for granted. Every moment is so precious. Life is fleeting… like a vapor as the scriptures declare. What a joy it was to witness the interrupting voice of a carefree 2 feet high human being interrupting the regular ordered schedule of services of my dearly beloved cousin and his family.
Could it be this moment was designed to interrupt us for a moment? To give us a glimpse into the reality of how life really is? Just when you think you know what you're about to do next suddenly something comes alone and interrupts your flow? Could this moment serve as a interrupting reminder to all of us that "THERE IS A PLACE?" A better place? A special place? A place where unwanted interruptions will cease?
Funny, it's the small things in life that usually matter the most. Death interrupts life enough… it's refreshing to see a little payback come in such a small way.
Watch on app or download Zion City App to listen to special song by Eric Dawkins "Bonus Moments"