I’ve given one funeral in my life, and I never even met the man. I met his wife in the hospital while waiting to see a church member. A few days later, I returned, supposing I was meant to see her again. She asked me to do the funeral. She seemed like a salty old lady, meaning she seemed like the type who would take me, young enough to be her insolent grandson, over her knee if I said no.
It all went well, I have to say. I didn’t even confess until after it was over that I was a rookie.
The message I gave was pretty smooth because the guy had a great life of redemption – a lifelong alcoholic who almost lost his wife went to AA and got sober for 20 years. His AA buddies were his pallbearers. Most humble and personable guys I’ve ever met
The only problem was that the funeral home guys went out for a smoke or something, because they weren’t paying attention to when the service ended. I had given my talk, and was seated in front of everyone…and nothing happens. No music, no lights up, no guys coming into the room to direct us…nothing. After about 30 painful seconds, I decided we had had enough ‘ silent meditation time,’ so I got up and gave another, much lower quality closing prayer. I felt tacky.
This week, I’ve got two funerals to go to. Big week. One is with my wife’s Catholic family. The family lets me pray at Christmas dinner, because I’m kind of a novelty, and they’re having me read the eulogy. Then I’ll get a royal ‘upstaging’ by a real live priest (which is like the preacher equivalent of a pro-wrestler hitting you with a folding chair.) But that’s kind of my role in the family. I’m like the home version of ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ Not nearly as fun as the real thing, but good enough when we don’t have anything else. Eh, but I’m not complaining. I’d rather have the real Pat Sajak…and Vanna too.
My Dad, who is a preacher, gives excellent funerals. It really is his talent above all talents – to coalesce a person’s life into a moral wrapped up in touching memories, not just give a three point Bible lesson. One time, I snuck a read of his sermon for an old woman before he delivered it. When he delivered the final sentence, it was as if someone had punched everyone in the gut at the same time, myself included. Reading it ahead of time diminished its impact in no way.
The problem with being really good at funerals is that, who’s going to give your funeral? Some clown is going to be up there, and you’ll just be glad you aren’t there to see it. The other problem with being an excellent funeralist is it’s like being a podiatrist. Yeah, you’re a doctor, but no one’s impressed. No one goes to a funeral to be wowed or pumped up.
But there’s no mistaking a good funeral and a bad funeral. Some funerals are great, and some you go to and wish you were the guy in the box.
Funerals seem to fall in the same holes as weddings:
People don’t know how to dress. Cousin Billy shows up to a black tie event in high-rise cut off shorts and a faded Confederate flag muscle shirt.
Someone talks too long, either saying nothing or too much. Funerals are emotional times, and sometimes the moment gets people carried away. But we don’t need Grandpa’s best man revealing all the…ahem…indiscretions they committed during ‘The Great War.’
Sometimes the dead guy deserves a big ‘Told you so!’ There are some family members who no one liked, didn’t do anything with their lives, and inconvenienced everyone. It’s like the other bookend was the wedding day, ‘You’re throwing your life away on that man!’ Forty years later, that same mother-in-law is there screeching, ‘I told you he’d never amount to anything!’
Most funerals I’ve seen have gone the embalming route. Personally, (and this is in my living will, which is written on a napkin stuck to the fridge) I plan to be cremated, then thrown from a tall building in the middle of a busy city at rush hour. It will be hilarious, and when Jesus raises the dead, I want to see a real miracle take place when he puts me back together!
What about you? Any tacky funeral stories? Any really amazing funerals? What song do you want played? What songs would make you roll over in your grave? Where do you want to be scattered/thrown/buried when you’re gone?