The real moment in a funeral

As the woman emerged from the audience today at the funeral, I feared that she would be the first of a line of people which sometimes form at such events. I call this part of a funeral “amateur hour” or “open mic night.” I feared that she would have some wandering, off-the-cuff remarks, and that she would be followed by a congo line of even more wandering, off-the-cuff people, some of whom would seem dazed, some of whom would be crying uncontrollably and some of whom would seem to be at the wrong funeral. My wife has instructions, should I pre-decease her, to block this from happening at my funeral, or I have promised to haunt her.

Fortunately, this was not what was happening. The woman rose to deliver some beautifully written remarks I later found out were written by the deceased’s daughter, and this ended the service. It had begun with a short sermonette delivered by the deceased’s minister. This wasn’t bad except that it had contained little if any personal reference to the deceased, who was my wife’s much-beloved great-aunt, and that I stayed five minutes ahead of it as we moved from blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on (the Revelation of John) to precious in the sight of the LORD are his saints (the Psalms).

But in her remarks, we remembered the actual person – from her early days when her husband-to-be showed up at the movie theater when he wasn’t invited on her date and sat down on her other side, to her husband’s giving the gift of dried dog turd in a beautiful wooden box on her birthday. And – there’s no other way to say this: we laughed; we cried.

I am a religious person, and I have a great deal of sympathy for ministers who are pressed into service at the grave of non-religious people they never really met. I believe that my wife’s aunt was a regular church-goer, and the minister said at the beginning that he had spent a lot of time with her over the years. It’s too bad he didn’t draw on any of those times when he delivered the cookie-cutter sermon.

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