I had forgotten funerals are sometimes seen as captive audiences in need of proselytization. This weekend I attended two funerals and was reminded of that.
The first funeral was for a relative that I knew a little. Her nieces and grandsons shared many stories of her. I felt like I knew her better. She was hard-working, adventurous and full of good-hearted wit. She loved children, which I knew, but I hadn’t known about all the children she fostered or how she worked in Family services and could handle the most difficult clients because she knew just how to love them. Even though she had gone through more pain than most of us do, the majority of the stories shared were very funny. I have never laughed so much at a funeral.
The graveside internment was different. Two ministers spoke, and suddenly my great-aunt wasn’t part of the funeral anymore. One of them introduced his talk by telling the funeral directors that one day they would be out of business. I had to admire the funeral directors’ poker faces, although one person’s face twitched at the news.
The speaker went on boasting that Jesus would return, hopefully in our lifetime, and no one would get sick or die ever again. (Incidentally, this man used to get annoyed at my gluten-sensitive husband for refusing to take the wheat communion crackers. In his mind, my husband should have enough faith to know that the blessed body of Christ couldn’t harm him. )
The next funeral service had no formal stories about the deceased. The pastor talked on and on, and only mentioned this great-aunt to quote her saying “we need to hear these words”, which he went on to explain weren’t really his words, but god’s words from his mouth. Which he then proceeded to give more of.
Fortunately, there were many family members and friends who told stories over the egg salad sandwiches and freshly made apple crisp. I had seen this relative nearly every year growing up, but never talked to her. It was wonderful to learn more and to connect with other family members.