I had the privilege yesterday afternoon of joining in a meeting with a couple of neighbor kids who are now in the midst of successful adulthood. In that context, they no longer live in the neighborhood. The meeting was unlike any they had ever attended before. You’re probably wondering if they really needed me to be with them? Truthfully, they did not. They certainly have the skill set to negotiate anything that life brings their direction.
The truth of the matter is that I wanted to be with them. Actually, I needed to be with them for me. They would have gotten it right without my being there, but this sort of thing is old school for me and I thought my presence might be a source of support. They were meeting with folks at the funeral home to plan the service for their father’s funeral.
It sounds like a simple process of making decisions you’d rather not have to make. For example, it was not a complicated question: “How many death certificates do you want?” The honest answer is that you don’t want any. If it were left to what you wanted, you’d want to be somewhere else dealing with anything else. “How many death certificates do you want?” If the obvious answer is “One” and that isn’t the presumed correct answer, how many death certificates does a person need? I figure most people eventually reach the conclusion that they are cheaper by the dozen. Why not get a handful?
If you want to play in the big league and deal with a hurdle no one ever enjoys, picking out the casket you like best is tough. Honestly, is there anything about a casket that anyone likes? The selection process brings with it emotions one would rather remain dormant. Somehow the selection your making seems so final.
I officiated at a funeral once for a husband and wife who had been killed in a car accident. Their family selected a uniquely shaped pine casket for both parents. There was something about the simplicity and unique shape that resonated with my sense that the selection was perfect. We didn’t see anything like that yesterday.
The sister-brother team did an incredible job of making decisions they thought would most reflect what their father would have selected.
As I was homeward bound, I thought about what I most wanted to share at my friend’s funeral service on Saturday. Actually, I’ve thought of little else since last Saturday when his “Last Day Celebration” began. It is both an honor and privilege to be asked to officiate at a funeral. I often joke that: “It is the only time I ever get the last word”.
Actually, I am humbled to be entrusted with the responsibility to know what to share and how to share it. Most people dread the thought of attending a funeral. One of my goals is to reframe that concept. Consequently, I always focus on individual strengths and God’s love. I don’t exaggerate either. In order to maintain integrity, you’ve got to share the truth. God’s willingness and availability to meet folks in the midst of their grief is a universal truth I always highlight.
The easiest funerals for me are those for individuals I best know and love. Yet, truthfully, I never conduct a funeral for a stranger. I have met some wonderful people posthumously. I interview any number of family members and friends before I craft the words that I sense need to be shared.
In fact, a routine question I always ask family members is: “What did you value most about your loved one?” I sometime find it a little troubling when a family member can’t think of anything, but seldom does that happen and I’ve never had it universally happen where no one in the family had anything positive to share.
Another question I sometimes ask is: “In what ways are you like your loved one?” You know, when you share DNA with someone, part of who they are shows up in who you are. It may be something as simple as those mischievous brown eyes or captivating smile.
At any rate, by the time I made it back home yesterday, I had a good idea of what I want to share about my friend on Saturday. Of course it will be late Friday night before the ideas in my head make it to paper. I know that because it is patterned behavior. I always wait until the last minute. On the other hand, my thoughts are always fresh when they are reflected in written word.
In the interim, I will be grateful for the opportunity and open to new thoughts and new ideas of what most needs to be shared. I am grateful for the privilege.
All My Best!