Recently my next door neighbor’s twenty-six year old granddaughter died. We had only lived here in retirement for about 1 1/2 years, but we’ve somewhat known the family for many years now. Before her granddaughter died she asked me to do her funeral.
As the granddaughter was getting worse and the doctors had said there was nothing else they could do, the grandmother reminded me again that I was to do her granddaughter’s funeral.
Here is the back story: The granddaughter lived with her grandmother since she was 12 because her mother was all strung out on drugs and in rehabilitation. Over the years the mother did nothing much for her daughter… maybe a gift at Christmas or maybe not. While she was in the hospital dying, the mother would come and stay five minutes and leave… maybe to go see a movie and other silly stuff like that. I know that we all handle the stress of seeing our loved ones suffer in different ways. Some are there and will not leave your side while others can’t bear to be there at all. But this was a life long narcissistic pattern for this mom. It was all about her and not about her daughter.
The day after the daughter died, the mom (against her mother’s wishes) came to our home and told me that her pastor would like to include me in the service. Perhaps I could read some Scripture and do the eulogy. She gave me his phone number and asked that I call him to confirm what I was doing. I suspected that the grandmother was being undercut by this maneuver, but I really didn’t know this lady. I had only seen her a time of two in the 49 years I had been married to my wife. I replied to her statement by saying I will do whatever the grandmother asks me to do.
In just a few moments I received a call from the grandmother saying her daughter was out of line and that I would be leading the service. I really didn’t want to get in the middle of this situation… and thought this would be a wonderful time for a vacation at the beach.
I called the pastor, who was a member of another denomination and his understanding was that the daughter was handling all of this. I informed him of the situation and he said he would do whatever I wanted him to do, and to call him back with the details.
I checked with the family. Asked the mom and grandmother to come to my home Sunday evening so we could get all of this worked out. I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page and in agreement before we got before an audience. I even invited the other pastor, but he was too busy. The mom could not come either. So I met with the grandmother and we planned the service. (I need for you to know that this is the third funeral I will have done in four days.)
I tried that night to contact the pastor. I left a message at his home and at his church the next morning at 8:30. I called back to the home in the middle of the afternoon and left another message saying that I needed his confirmation on some elements of the service so I could print the worship bulletins. No word. It was really amazing to me that when I talked with the daughter she said she had talked with him and he said he had talked with me and everything was set. Still no word from this pastor.
At the visitation the pastor had not shown up. The daughter, who goes to his church, mentioned that the draft of the bulletin looked good. I replied that we still had not heard from her pastor. She whipped out her cell and called him… low and behold he answered her. He was on his way to the funeral home.
When he finally arrived I talked with him about the service and he was ok with what I was asking him to do: Scripture and the message. I mentioned that I had left several messages at his home and church. His only reply was I should have given you my cell number. No apology for not returning any calls. (I was taught by my father that not returning calls as soon as you could was a blatant act of disrespect toward the person who left the message.)
After talking with him we leave and head home to make the final changes in the bulletin. My daughter-in-law went to her church to print the bulletins for us around 8:30 that evening, and my wife picked them up at 7:00 the next morning from my son.
Needless to say I am about to explode because of this guys inattentiveness to this matter before him. The service is scheduled for 11:00. It is now 10:55 and I have gathered with the family to have prayer. The other pastor has not shown up. The funeral director says: “Why don’t we just go ahead?” I respond: “I feel it best to wait just a bit to give him benefit of the doubt.” The daughter is back on the cell calling her preacher to no avail. She says go ahead without him. I have the prayer and the preacher shows up.
He has a bulletin. We process toward the chapel. The service begins. I do the opening words of grace and the invocation, which is followed by some special music. After that music, according to the bulletin, I am to read Scripture and have a meditation. However, after the music ends the other preacher stands and does his stuff.
Two children (half brother and sister of the deceased) are supposed to follow him with reading personal notes they have written for their sister. Before I can stop them from coming up, there they are… just as the music that was supposed to follow me starts playing. I quietly ask them to wait til the music is over.
So here is the picture, these two children are just standing there facing the congregation waiting for the music to end so they can speak. Over to the side of me are the two singers who were supposed to follow their preacher after he finished. I simply motioned to them to follow after I finish.
Well, I do my part, the singers sing, the benediction is given and we recess. Yes, I wanted to have a really good, stern talk with this pastor, but I don’t. We step outside next to the hearse. As the people are coming out I ask him if he would like to have a prayer and benediction at the graveside and he says “Why don’t you just take care of all of that and I will just be present?”
At the graveside, following the service is a single dove release. It was really beautiful until the funeral directors tells me that they are trained to return home. Most of them do, he says, unless a hawk sees them. And then he adds a hawk can rip them in half. I thought to myself… “Oh no, the way this thing has gone that hawk will hit this bird right over the funeral tent.” By the way, the dove made a few victory rolls over the tent and there was no sign of any hawk.
I was in the ministry for 40 years and I have NEVER had any pastor treat me or the family with so little respect. It was very clear to me that this man’s heart and mind were not in this service, nor caring for this family. Usually ministers just get together and come to and understanding of how they can best help this family and lift up Christ in this moment. I really just don’t know what to make of this guy. Perhaps I should have just knelt before him and kissed his ring???
Thanks for letting me rant?????????