Many of you have heard me tell the caterpillar story at funerals, especially when there are children there. Jesus said, we have to become like little children to enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3), and little children love to hear a good story again and again and again.
"Once upon a time there was a caterpillar. She lived on a branch, and spent her time crawling and chewing. That was what she thought life was all about. What worried her was that one by one her parents and family and friends went into a cocoon and died. "I'll be next," she thought.
But one day she got sick, and couldn't eat or crawl as usual. She turned over on her back, and for the first time looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful blue. Then she noticed bright colored creatures flying around above her. "Oh, I wish I could be free to fly like those things." But what she could not see was that those butterflies were her parents and family and friends. When she got better from her sickness, and was able to crawl and chew again, she would try to twist her head from time to time and look up longingly at the sky and those creatures above her.
Sure enough the time came when she began to feel a cocoon closing in around her. Bit by bit she felt herself unable to move. And then everything went blank. But not for long. The next thing she knew was that she could see the sky again, and the butterflies around her. But now she could recognize them as her parents and family and friends. From her shoulders she felt wings beginning to move. So she tried flying, and landed on the brightest flower she could see. And when she tasted the nectar, she couldn't believe she had spent her life eating those awful leaves.
The point of that story is that a caterpillar has very little idea of what life after dying in a cocoon is like. But the heart of that caterpillar was what she really longed to be. And we all know Monnie's faith had already helped her see something of the freedom she was made for. She is not the Monnie we saw suffering so terribly.
As Paul said about death and resurrection in our reading, "What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Then the saying that is written will be fulfilled : Death has been swallowed up in victory, Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44 & 53-57).
(A meditation given at the committal service for Monnie Thrift (Raven)
in St. James' Anglican Church, Kingston, Ontario, October 3, 1999).