Kids Dancing At Funerals

When a beloved teacher passed away, his funeral procession took an interesting turn. His students danced, practically on his grave, and it was a powerful tribute to their love and respect for teacher Dawson Tamatea. New Zealand’s Manawatu Standard quoted Palmerston North principal David Bovey as saying this was a “very emotional and powerful performance”.

That’s an understatement.


An eruption of noise and movement.

Then silence again.

Let no one say dancing at funerals is an inappropriate response to death.

Dancing and Dirges

People respond to good and bad in unique ways. Sure, most people exhibit signs of happiness at joyful life events and most exhibit signs of sorrow at sad life events. But sometimes these are misinterpreted by those looking on from the sidelines.

Jesus knew this from first-hand experience.

Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.’

“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-35.)

When it comes to critics, Jesus was saying, there’s no pleasing some people. He calls these critics childish, lacking wisdom. In fact, they had forgotten one of the most memorable passages of wisdom literature in Scripture.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

… a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance … (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4.)

As believers in Jesus, we get to laugh and mourn and weep and dance as well, knowing that Jesus is with us in all these times.

So follow the leading of the Spirit of Christ who lives within you and let no one criticize you for how you respond to the joys and sorrows of life. How you express that is as unique as you are.

There is a proper time for mourning and a proper time for dancing, and sometimes the time to mourn is exactly the time to dance.

Just ask Mr. Tamatea’s students.


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6 Responses to Kids Dancing At Funerals

  1. Laura Droege says:

    This reminded me of a former pastor. His mother was apparently quite a character, and she lived with he and his family at the end of her life. In her obituary, the pastor said that no one who came for visitation or the funeral was allowed to wear black. (If you wore black, you would be thrown out!) They had to wear bright, happy colors. I think they also threw a Cajun shrimp boil for the visitation. The mother had requested all of this; she didn’t want people to be gloomy and sad and wearing black, no matter what the traditional mourning etiquette called for! I thought of how this might’ve looked to some people from the “outside”: a shrimp boil for a death celebration?! But it was a beautiful tribute to her life, much like the dancing students paid tribute to their teacher’s life.

  2. Jeannie says:

    Wow, that is powerful, Tim. And I like your take on the “time to mourn and time to dance” passage. Who are we to tell someone else that a funeral is not a time to dance? Yes, there is a right time for everything and our right time may not be the same as someone else’s. I hope that Mr. Tamatea’s family was blessed by the way the students honoured him — I think they must have been.

  3. Ruth says:

    My mum wouldn’t have black at her service either. I wore a pink lace jacket and black skirt, I wear that jacket every birthday, Mother’s Day, the day of her passing and the funeral to show my peace at knowing she is at home with her Lord. We had native flowers at the service, in large vases, and a bunch each was given to family and friends as she came from Queensland, wide open spaces and native bush held her heart. She was in a world class choir and they travelled extensively, so they sang on the day, nothing down beat, just Christian joy. A wonderful tribute to a talented vivacious lady, gone for 6 years, but here every day too.

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