I’ve been to a fair number of funerals and memorial services – sometimes person officiating knew the departed well, as in the case of the mother of a boy on Andrew’s wrestling team. She was a youth leader and taught religious school at the synagogue. More often, however, the person officiating only knew the departed in passing if at all.
I know for a fact that the minister who officiated at my grandfather’s funeral didn’t know my grandfather. He might have met him, but I doubt it. But even though he didn’t know my grandfather he did a good job of talking about his life – and even compared his mortal body to an envelope for the soul. Since my grandfather worked in the post office it was a fitting analogy.
Sometimes, however, the minister is way off as in the most recent memorial service I attended.
The service took place at a multi-denominational house of worship – it looked more like a small rec center than a church. I think the setting was chosen because it was very accessible – the departed was wheelchair bound as were several of her friends. Given the setting, I didn’t expect a very religious sermon.
I was mistaken – it was heavily religious – full of talk of heaven and Jesus. That’s not a bad thing at a memorial service. The minister, I suppose, was trying to comfort the folks who’d lost a loved one. He did mention her wheelchair, saying he was pretty sure there were no wheelchairs in Heaven, along with no pain nor suffering. He also, however, seemed to want to pull more folks into the fold of Christianity by offering positive visions of Heaven – still not a bad thing. He got on a roll, however, talking about how desirable heaven (and therefore Christianity) was. It was about this time he should have turned the service over to the family who was waiting to tell their stories of their loved one. But no, he went on to tell more stories to tell about the goodness of God, Heaven and Christ.
What amazed me however, was not his religious zeal – after all, he is a man of God; it’s to be expected. No, what made me shake my head in surprise and shock was the lobster story.
He’d been talking about how people who are not Christians don’t know what they’re missing. Then he said that when he was a child he would not touch lobster. He said that his father and other people kept telling him he didn’t know what he was missing. Finally, when he was a teenager he tasted lobster and loved it. He really didn’t know what he was missing.
Then he said something about how death is something we dread, fear and don’t want to think about, but like him and lobster, we just don’t know what we are missing.
I think I know what he was getting at – a “try it you’ll like it” approach to Christianity. But it came out wrong – on two levels:
- Death is nothing to aspire to – it is a fact of life and an inevitability.
- The departed was a vegan.