John knew why he was at the funeral, but he didn’t want to admit it to anyone there, he didn’t even want to admit it to himself. He smiled the mourners smile to all that caught his eye, several of the people there on this overcast day he recognized from the office, most of the fifty or so individuals in attendance though he did not know. John had been to half a dozen funerals in his lifetime, and he knew how they were supposed to go, this one was pretty much adhering to the status quo, “He was a good man, we will miss him, I’m sure that he is looking down from heaven right now.” That last part spoken by the man at the head of the grave hit John hard, and he had to wince a little, it was the main reason that he was here, he felt that it was his fault that the man in that coffin over there was in it in the first place.
John hadn’t been able to shake that feeling from the moment he had heard about Reggie’s death at the office four days ago. “Killed himself, stuck a hose on the exhaust of his car and ended it all,” one of his co-workers had informed him in the breakroom that morning after pouring another shot of the terrible coffee into the paper cup that he was carrying and then laughing about something with another office employee as they walked out the door together.
John had sat in the breakroom for almost an hour after hearing of the news of Reggie’s death, not even noticing the puzzled looks of others tossed his way as they came and went. “You got a second, John?” “Pretty busy, Reggie, what can I do for you?” Just outside that same breakroom just ten days ago Reggie had tried to stop him on his way to an important meeting, well, important in John’s mind at least, and although it was only a short ride on the elevator to get to it, he wanted to show up early. “Always looks good to get there early” he had said to his wife as he rushed out the door nearly every morning. John was a Christian, he had accepted Christ over a year ago, but that didn’t mean that you still couldn’t be a “go-getter.” It was a big world, the ladder of success was tall, and he had begun to climb it with great intent many years ago. The nice big house, the fine furniture, even the two great cars in the garage were not paid for yet, but they would be someday, and they would seem like nothing compared to what the vice president of a large corporation could earn in a year.
“You go to church, don’t you John?” That seemed like a strange question to John, especially coming from Reggie, and even more so from someone at work. This guy not only cussed and swore almost constantly but was rumored to be one of the biggest womanizers in the entire building. “Yeah, I do, but what’s that got to do with anything, Reggie?” John had racked his brain for the last four days trying to remember what else Reggie had said to him that morning, but as he stood at the gravesite with a fine mist starting to fall he could still remember no more that the words “Hate myself” and “Love my wife and kid.” The elevator door had opened, John had stepped inside and had not given the man a second thought, he was headed to accept that promotion he had been expecting and that was all that was on his mind, along the extra money and new office that came with it of course.
Reggie’s widow tried to cover the face of the infant that was in her arms to protect it from the weather, but it would have nothing to do with that, and it started to add its own voice to some of the other mourners in attendance. “So, this is what the head of the largest sales district in the state gets, not bad.” John was just hanging up the phone and securing his computer before he headed off to a meeting when Reggie opened the door of his new office and sat himself down in one of the plush, overstuffed chairs. He did not look near as good as his voice sounded, in fact, it looked like he had been sleeping in his car.
The lump was instantaneous in Johns throat, the sound that came from inside of him was a sorrowful moan that he had not made since the death of his own father a long time ago on a day almost like today. He looked up quickly, but no one had noticed, it was a funeral after all, and the mist that had started to turn into a sprinkle hid the tears that now fell freely down his face. Reggie had wanted to talk, that’s all he had wanted, just the ears of a friend to listen to his burden, to acknowledge the pain and suffering he was experiencing, just a reassuring word that everything was going to be alright. It had been the day before the security officer for the building had found Reggie dead in his car in the far reaches of the building’s basement parking area, vehicle still running, the hose from the exhaust blowing death into the window.
He had impatiently sat in his new office listening to the disheveled looking co-worker as he went on about numerous affairs he had been involved in over the past few years, how his wife had finally had enough, and how she had once and for all kicked him out of the house, freezing their bank account and credit cards. “I know you go to church John, I’ve seen your car at the one just a few blocks over from here on some Sunday mornings, can you help me to get this right, maybe even get right with God?” John sat down hard on the wet, soggy ground, his back against an equally hard and wet tree, put his head between his knees and started to sob uncontrollably. “It’s my fault, it’s my fault,” the words coming out of him between the bitter weeping, unseen tears in the rain that was now pouring down upon him.
“Well, that’s a tough situation Reggie, but you kind of dug that hole yourself, didn’t you? I’m sure God could probably help you out, but I’ve got to get to this meeting, lots of stuff going on today and I’ve got to be there, you know how it goes. Tell you what though, why don’t you show up to church on Sunday morning, I’m not sure if I’ll be there or not, the wife has some relatives coming into town to celebrate my promotion, but you’ll meet a lot of nice people there and I’m sure that one of them will be able to help you figure all this out.” John had walked out of his office then, leaving the man to sit in the chair he had placed himself in when he first arrived, wondering if he should have locked his desk.
John had always believed that work and church were two separate entities, you did not mix the two, but his mind since the news of Reggie’s death would now longer allow him to believe this. He had never brought up anything of his new spiritual life at work, but he could recall dozens of times that work had been brought up at church, and always with pride attached to it. He had been given a Bible when he was baptized, had even felt compelled to bring it to work a few months ago, and he knew where it was right now, in the bottom left hand drawer of his new desk in his new office, with the cellophane cover it had come to him with still on it.
All the man had wanted was to talk, he had just wanted somebody to listen to him, and he had wanted that person to be someone who knew Jesus Christ, and John had not been there for him, he had things to do, he had been too busy with what he thought mattered, and he had failed the man.
John stood up and pulled the wet handkerchief out of his suit pocket and wiped the tears from his wet face. There was a resolved look on his face and in his walk as he went over to the open grave, glancing and nodding at the only two men left in the cemetery besides himself, two men standing with shovels in their hands under a tarp over to the side. He looked down into the grave at the coffin, not feeling the pouring rain on his shoulders and said, “I’m sorry, I am so very sorry, I promise it will never happen again.”
It was still early in the day, he wanted to get back to the office and take the cellophane off that Bible, it was time to start doing some work that mattered.