I spent most of Monday with Jim Rogers and the fine folks at Blanchard-St. Denis funeral home. The Methodists were laying to rest one of the sainted members of our congregation. The funeral home staff and the church folks made every effort to make sure that all went well.
My Monday epiphany was that funeral directors spend an inordinate amount of time with clergy. They must deal with us when the funeral services are in “our place.” Some ministers have strange quirks about what can and can’t happen in their (it’s not really theirs) church during a funeral or memorial service. We all have good reasons for our well thought out quirks. The poor funeral directors may find themselves negotiating with the clergy on behalf of the family and vice versa.
The committal service takes place in the cemetery. It is neutral territory.
The funeral procession is the theological reason I have decided to be cremated. I couldn’t stand that slow drive from the church to the grave site. If someone would promise that the funeral procession would speed through the streets, I might give consent for that last ride. Otherwise, turn me into ashes and sprinkle me someplace that held meaning for me.
Since I will go first you guys watch over my wife. She will put my ashes in some Tupperware container and I’ll end up being sold at a garage sale. In case, I have picked out my Tupperware. I want to be placed in a Tupperware pasta dispenser. That way for the first and only time, I will be tall and skinny!
Monday the committal service concluded at the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Keithville. The service was complete with a real bugler, a 21-gun salute and the folding and presentation of the American flag. This military cemetery is a beautiful place. The military honor guard was spectacular. Everyone did well.
I rode in the hearse. I was not in the horizontal position in back, but riding shotgun.
I know that Jim Rogers went home and said to his wife, “Honey, you wouldn’t believe my day. I had to ride back and forth to Keithville with the preacher. I am exhausted.” He was likely dreaming of a nice steak and his favorite adult beverage. He earned both.
On the drive back to Natchitoches. Jim and I waxed philosophical about our callings and the similarities between clergy and funeral directors. They have the advantage, when a funeral director straightens someone out, they stay straightened out. I tend to have folks backslide.
Nearly to the Posey Road exit his hearse buzzed. It was about the time he was daring me to turn around and look at the sunroof in the back of the hearse. Yes, the hearse is complete with a sunroof. I didn’t look but I believe Jim. I told Jim he should give the option for open or closed roof service.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the hearse chimed. I inquired about the nice sounding chime.
Jim said, “I’m low on fuel.”
He added, “It is funny this hearse tells you are low on fuel, but it doesn’t tell you the range you have remaining.”
We found out. The hearse ran out of gas on Second street in front of Maison Salter’s.
For me, I could walk a few steps to the church. For Jim his day continued. He handled it with all the aplomb with which he handles everything. First, I give kudos to the Funeral Home here. They always do a great job. Second, you may now laugh at the hearse running out of gas. Better coming home than headed to the cemetery. It is OK to laugh at a funeral. It is often healthy. Third, can you image poor Jim? He drives the preacher to and from a cemetery and then he’s almost back home and the hearse runs out of gas. He also knows I write about things like that. Poor Jim!
Think about the other person you are dealing with, they could be like Jim, in the middle of a “not so good day.” Maybe speaking a kind word or acting with patience would be an act of grace to them. Be kind, in Jesus name, the other person might really need it.