He described it as the funeral from hell. I can truthfully say that I’ve never witnessed or been a part of that kind of experience. I’ve heard horror stories of things that happen at funerals, but I have no first hand knowledge. All I’ve got to say about the preacher who shared his story is that he remained amazingly calm through what could have been a very unsettling set of circumstances.
The only positive thing he said about the funeral is that it was one of those occasions where the only appropriate thing to share was to brag about God. There was simply nothing about the departed that seemed worthy of highlighting or bringing to anyone’s attention.
As was his custom, the pastor entered the chapel area at the funeral home from the side door. From his vantage point, he did not have a view of the front side of the casket, but he could see folks as they entered the chapel. He didn’t know much about the young man who died apart from the fact that his death was an act of suicide.
One of the things that he immediately found a little troublesome was the number of people who entered the chapel area, sat down briefly, looked up at the casket and then stood and walked out the door. The alarm bells were going off in his head, but he didn’t yet have enough information to have any sense of cause and effect.
If yours were the belief that the preacher is the guy orchestrating the order of service at a funeral, you’d be wrong. Generally, the pastor has some idea of the order of activities, but not always. First up was the brother of the departed. He raised his filled glass to propose a toast to his brother. “How the ‘@#$%#’ am I supposed to get through this without this (referring to the contents of the glass)? He then gulped it down.
You can imagine what the preacher was thinking? Actually, you probably can’t. He was experiencing some level of empathy for the brother dealing with his grief in the only manner he knew. Obviously if it provided any relief it was only temporary.
Before the program moved farther, someone from the second row started stomping his feet and verbally invited the crowd of other members from their motorcycle club to do the same. Collectively they joined in a chant in honor of the departed. By now, the preacher was feeling a little anxious (very anxious is probably more descriptive.) As people stomped their feet, clapped their hands and chanted, the noise level grew louder and louder. This was proving to be a disaster. In this kind of environment it would be easy to totally lose control of the crowd. Yet, when the chant was over, order was restored.
Next up was a pictorial overview of the young man’s life. Normally, you don’t expect that in the midst of the funeral service, but maybe so. However, there was a troubling aspect to the pictorial representation. It was then that the preacher remembered he didn’t share with me the full back story. Allegedly the young man killed himself because he was caught cheating on his wife. Since she was still his wife, she was the one responsible for the funeral service.
You’ve probably heard the expression: “There is nothing like a woman scorned.” Trust me that could have been a contributing factor to the preacher’s perception that this was a funeral from hell. Toward the end of the pictorial presentation of the young man’s life, there were a number of pictures of him with his arm around a woman. “Busted!” They were not pictures of the man and his wife”. However, the two of them looked, shall we say: “Quite cozy?” Reportedly, the primary reason the man took his own life was that he was caught cheating on his wife.
I’m not the sharpest Crayola in the box, but I wasn’t buying it. I’ve watched too many episodes of Cannon P.I. on CBS when I was much younger. Do you remember him? Frank Cannon was a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. However, he retired after the deaths of his wife and son in a car accident. He later became a private investigator. The cause of death of Cannon’s wife and child was not clear through the first four seasons of the show. The first episode of the fifth and final season of the series revolves around Cannon’s investigation of the deaths, and he finally finds out why they were killed.
I turned to the preacher and said: “Problem solved. This was not a suicide. This was murder and the scorned wife got away with it.” That makes a lot more sense than his being overwhelmed with regret. Trust me, he wasn’t that kind of guy.
At the close of the service, the preacher stepped around to the front of the casket to greet or offer support to folks as they walked passed the casket. It was then that the dots connected in his head. The “Harley Davidson” casket had the words: “Final Farwell” painted across the front. Actually, “Final Farwell” isn’t the two words that were written. The message did include two words. You can only imagine. Actually, I hope you can’t imagine, but the two words were not for a family friendly audience.
By this point in the preacher’s story, I had to admit. It really was the funeral from hell. But wait, there is more to his story. When they got to the cemetery one other surprise awaited the preacher. Instead of starting the committal portion of the service in a timely fashion, there was one other surprise in store. The director of the funeral home said: “This is going to be a little different. The folks on motorcycles want to spin out around the grave and sling dirt into the opening. The preacher handled it well. He turned to the funeral director and said: “I’m done” and walked away.
I guess you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away. It is a sad story. The preacher was right, it was the funeral from hell.
All My Best!