It’s Your Funeral

6 Feb

About a week ago, a lady stopped at our parish office to ask if it would be possible to use our sanctuary for her son’s funeral.  She goes to a very small church, and she knew there wouldn’t be space for all of the people she expected. She’d come to other funerals here, thought our building was “simply lovely” and hoped we would allow this.  She promised that things would be left exactly as they found them.  “Done in a neat and orderly fashion”, as she put it. After a quick discussion with Fr. M, Mrs. Johnson, and her pastor, it was decided that it wouldn’t be a problem. The Squire and I met with them at our church on Saturday evening so they could see what we had and how things were laid out.

A few surprises – they are Methodist, but wanted an open coffin in the church, and the visitation would be immediately before the service.  While The Squire and I were standing around, I happened to notice that the ladies on Altar Duty for February had not done anything so I grabbed the step stool and he got the number box, and while they were deciding where things were to go, we set up the hymns for the next morning. I got the Communion ware in order and put it on the altar for early service and left things ready to be taken up for the late service. When I mentioned this kerfuffle on Sunday morning to one of the two people on duty for February she was very surprised to learn she was “on” (do you read the newsletter?) and also very grateful for our help.

The weather has been so unsettled that after the Tuesday night service we changed the frontal from green to white, rather than wait until Wednesday morning. Good thing, as we had yet another ice storm Tuesday night.

The Squire and I were over at church at 8:30 today to open up, and just hold doors and point the way to the rest rooms (we really need to put a run of blue painter’s tape from the sanctuary doors because the place is like a rabbit warren; turn left at the blue door, then right at the double doors…) and generally do whatever we could to make life easier for the family. One thing we learned today is that if we ever again have this sort of crowd, we really need to have traffic control.  Our parking lot is large enough for the regular Sunday congregation, but we have a three acre field beyond it which is used for overflow parking. The Squire had opened the gate and he and I had parked our cars out there, just to get the ball rolling. At some point before the service started, someone had driven out into the field, turned around and driven back, and parked with their car nosed into the entrance, totally blocking it. The next two cars had parked side by side at the end of the lot, completely grid-locking the entire parking lot.  We noted the colors and makes of the cars and the pastor announced them, so we had a fellow out there helping these folks to gee and haw until we got things straight.

A bit after the service started, four young men – about twelve years old – came out into the narthex, looking totally bored. They’d had to give up their seats and didn’t feel like standing around in the back of the church. The Squire got out a chess set, and the four of them started a game. Well, two boys started to play and the other two, who belonged to a chess club at school, kibbitzed. Every time one of the players would make a move, these two fellows would inhale, gasp, shudder, and just about sit on their hands to avoid grabbing a chess piece and making the move themselves.

When the service was over, The Squire and I were astounded that people swarmed out ahead of the coffin, but it turned out there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Visitors were going up the side aisle to pay their respects and then returning by the center aisle. When we ran out of seating space, their ushers had put up folding chairs down the center aisle and those chairs had to be removed to make room for the body to be brought out of the building.

Several people thanked us profusely for the use of the building, told us how lovely it was, and asked if I was the “pastor”. I told them No, I am a preacher’s kid and a teacher, and just “look terribly important”.

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