As a preacher’s kid I get to go to more than my fair share of weddings and funerals. Today was a funeral day. It was a lady from the Preacher’s church. She was a sweet God-fearing woman who had been confined to a wheel chair for many years. My main memory of her was that she always had a smile on her face. During the funeral service I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had noticed that about her. I think that’s probably one of the best legacies a person could leave behind, the memory of being a joyous smiling happy person no matter what hardships you may have gone through.When attending functions such as weddings and funerals I like to sit back and observe. Since I’m not really the social butterfly type it works out well. It seems that even though the Preacher is usually the one giving the message at most of the funerals that I go to he does a lot of observing also.
Today before the service the Preacher said something that I had never really paid much attention to, but it made a lot of sense. He said, “Have you ever noticed at funerals that the poorest people are the most emotional and the ones that fight the most are the ones that cry the most?” It may not be a very politically correct statement to make, and maybe it’s just a Southern thing, but he’s right. Thinking back to the funerals that I’ve attended, it’s true.
When I was growing up and attending church every Sunday, I was taught as a child to sit still and be quiet during the service. My sister and little brother were taught the same thing. We knew better than to be fidgety or rambunctious or noisy in church. We were kids though and sometimes we slipped up, but the Preacher never hesitated to call us out by name from the pulpit and tell us to sit down and behave. It was very embarrassing, so after him doing that to us once or twice that was usually all it took for us to learn to act respectful in church.
Today I noticed that children today don’t seem to have that same level of respect. Even at a funeral, which is a more solemn gathering than a church service, the kids there were jumping around and acting like it was playtime at the McDonald’s playground. What I don’t understand is why the parents don’t correct them and make them behave, or even take them outside if the kids can’t be controlled. Why sit there and let the little hellions disrupt the funeral service? As many of you know, I don’t have kids and don’t claim to have any expertise in parenting, but I do know a thing or two about how to show some respect.
The other thing that I noticed today was the way people were dressed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fashionista or anything, but I do know how to dress conservatively, nicely and respectfully for a funeral. You don’t have to be rich to be able to wear something clean and decent to a funeral. One woman came in wearing a t-shirt and some wrinkled type of skirt, another was wearing a top that made it look like her chest might pop out at any moment, and most of the men were wearing jeans. Some didn’t even bother tucking in their shirts, some looked like they were wearing the same clothes for the past few days and some didn’t even bother to shave or brush their hair. Now I know God doesn’t judge a person by what they wear or look like, but there’s still a level of decency and respect that people should aim for when attending things like church services and funerals. Unless you’re homeless, there’s just no excuse for that sort of thing.
The last thing that I noticed and that really irritated me was the fact that several people came into the funeral service late. Now the funeral was set for 2:00 pm. I arrived at 1:00 pm. I had driven and hour and a half to get there. Now if I can get there on time, early even, and I’m not even related to the woman, then why in the hell couldn’t her own family get there in time for the funeral service? I would be so embarrassed if I had to walk in late to something like that.
So, at my funeral, I don’t want anyone going into hysterics and trying to jump into the casket with me, or cutting off pieces of my hair to put into envelopes to give to friends, or telling blatant lies about what a wonderful person I was. Just be honest. I know I’m not perfect. The Preacher never sugar-coats his messages at funerals and I don’t expect any less at mine. It is possible to be honest and respectful at the same time, all the while giving a good message about how life is beautiful and how we all need to appreciate it while we still can.
One last thing. I had to play substitute for my mother today because she was sick and couldn’t attend the funeral. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit my mother’s social graces and ability to offer comforting words to those who are hurting and in mourning. I did the best I could to support the Preacher, smile politely to the friends and family and to offer a supportive hug to the grieving widower. I just never feel like I’m meeting people’s expectations though, especially when I’m always introduced to everyone as the Preacher’s daughter. I really wished my mom could have been there. She’s so much better with all that stuff than I am.