I recently attended one of the most unusual, and most inspiriting, funerals I’ve ever been to. This memorial service was for my wife’s friend Jacqueline, called “Bootsie” by all who knew her. According to Bootsie’s instructions before she died, the service was held at Charley’s Bar & Club rather than in a church or funeral home.
Over 400 people crammed into Charley’s. It was standing room only, with an overflow of some people smoking on the sidewalk outside. Young people. Old people. Wealthy people and seemingly down-and-out people. Business people and bikers.
Bootsie clearly had touched lots of people during her lifetime. She was described as being a straight shooter with a heart of gold, willing to give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. Her loved ones fondly portrayed her as a cross between the cooking of Paula Dean, the quick wit of Roseanne Barr, and the sassiness of Madea. She loved handing out advice and pearls of wisdom, often to complete strangers she met in the nightclubs where her husband, “Buddy Love,” served as a DJ.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely comfortable at Charley’s. I don’t generally visit bars, and it was a whole different group of people than I usually hang out with.
But I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Wouldn’t Jesus prefer a down-to-earth memorial service at Charley’s Bar than a phony, pretentious service in some stained-glassed church or sterile funeral home?” After all, He was “the friend of sinners,” and it was mostly the religious folks that He had problems with.
I’m not sure I will schedule my memorial service at Charley’s. But I want to be a lot more thoughtful about whether I’m spending time with the kind of people Jesus would be spending time with.
Thank you, Bootsie, for making me uncomfortable, and for inspiring me to be more like Jesus.