"Dance at My Funeral" by Emily Geertsma Klooster, submitted to Christian Week

DANCE AT MY FUNERAL By Emily Geertsma Klooster Special to Christian Week, Canada's Leading National Christian Newspaper LONDON, ON—Last month I went to an amazing funeral where we celebrated the life of Dan Steven, who died December 6. The 25-year-old street musician and poet had battled a brain tumour for three and a half years. Dan left specific instructions about what he wanted to happen at his memorial service: “I want you to dance at my funeral,” he sang in a song he had written years before all of this happened, “I want you to celebrate your life!” We decided to honour his wishes by doing just that. One of Dan’s most powerful attributes was his love for music and understanding of its emotional power. When he was 17 he told family and friends that he wanted to be a musician and recording artist, and the songs he went on to write were intricately connected to his love for God. Music embodied Dan’s spiritual intensity, which was impossible to miss. Soon after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, Dan made his first album entitled Beggars and Kings, which included the song “Dance At My Funeral.” This song would prove more meaningful than anyone thought at the time. Dan said to his mother that it came to him on the beaches of Lake Huron, well before his diagnosis, and he had inscribed the lyrics into the sand. Much has happened since that day on a Lake Huron beach. Over the past three and a half years, Dan spent his time playing guitar and singing on the streets of London, Newfoundland and Jerusalem. He recorded a second album, Voices From God, devoted in part to his yearning for heaven and his union with God. And on December 6, Dan’s desires were fulfilled when he passed on to another world. On that morning, snow gently fell exactly as it had on the day of his birth almost 26 years before. The service took place at First Christian Reformed Church in London, and the bulletin described Dan well: “Traveler, friend, poet, whacky sing-songwriter, prophet, pilgrim, respecter of angels...disciple of Jesus, hugger of trees...” Sunflowers surrounded the casket, topped with a photo of Dan smiling and flashing the peace sign. An eclectic mix of people sat in the pews. Dread-locked young men with tattered clothes sat alongside elderly couples in suits and dresses. This congregation of Dan’s friends and family represented the many people and communities he affected in his short but full life. When the microphones were opened, many came forward to speak. A young man shared that when he met Dan he had been depressed for a long time: “Dan showed me what love was.” Another said Dan would often shock those around him by going to the bar and talking passionately about God over a beer. A woman said Dan had shown her how to forgive. Another man, already in tears, said he hadn’t known Dan very well, but knew him only as “friendly neighborhood Dan”—someone who went from house to house in London spreading his cheerful disposition to everyone he could find. Not only did Dan give away his love, but also his clothing, shoes, food and money to anyone he thought needed it more than he. Already Dan’s funeral had been a powerful witness to his life in Christ, but the best part was yet to come. The pastor announced that we were about to listen to another one of Dan’s songs, and that yes, we were going to dance! But no one thought we would dance like we did. Out of the speakers trickled Dan’s voice, singing “I want you to dance at my funeral ...” set to a rousing accordian track. A few began to sway gently, but soon others were twirling around gleefully in the balcony and a circle formed at the front of the church. Everyone joined hands and kicked up their heels, even if it was through a blur of tears. People clapped and sang along, and laughter rang through the entire church. Those passing the church on the sidewalks would never have guessed a funeral was going on inside. Dan’s funeral represented his life beautifully. He was an intense young man, in love with God and a firm believer in angels. Dan was determined to touch as many people as he could with God‘s love, and he had a spiritual intelligence to be envied.

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