I told in my last post about my most recent sermon and how at the time, I felt like I didn’t get anything out of it. This is about another sermon where I got more than I bargained for. This is a bit long and let me add a disclaimer in case anyone is offended. If you are then all I can say is; you had to be there. This is true in its entirety. I didn’t make this up. The names were changed to protect the innocent.
I have a confession. I am not a big fan of funerals. I guess no one really is a "fan" of them. I have never liked them. It’s much deeper than “not like”. I put funerals right up there with spiders. I hate them. If there were a way not to attend my own funeral, I would do it. I hate the sadness and sorrow but mostly I hate “the body.” I don’t need to see the body to have closure. Some people do but not me. Ok in some cases it is an urn full of ashes but you get the picture. And then someone always has to make the statement; He looks so peaceful, or doesn’t she look good? Ummmm No. They look dead to me. Am I the only one who can see that? If I am forced to attend my own funeral and if someone decides to let people look at me, the only thing I want people to say is; “Oh my God, it’s a miracle, he is still alive.”
Several years ago, I was asked to attend a funeral for the brother in law of a co-worker. It was one of those things where the company I worked for expected someone from the company to attend the funeral so they asked who wanted to go. I really didn’t want to go but I said I was available since I did like the co-worker and I felt that someone should attend just to show we care. Seriously I do care for this person and think a lot of her but I just don’t like funerals. After asking for volunteers, Nancy (another co-worker) and I were chosen. I have to stop right here and tell you that the fact that Nancy and I were “chosen” was in itself suspicious.
Let me give you some background. At the time, I was working in a very small town. The town’s people loved funerals. It was considered a town event and everyone went to them. If you even knew someone who knew someone who knew the deceased, you would attend the funeral. If a friend’s dog died they would have a funeral and by golly you better be there. If granny was in her nineties and had a cold, they would start arranging for her funeral just to be prepared. There is no since waiting until the last minute for a funeral. Granny’s going to go sometime so why not be prepared. So it was strange that no one else from where I worked was attending THIS funeral. Also I have to mention that Nancy and I were the only two people in our office that weren’t from that little town.
Now to make matters worse, the church where the funeral was being held wasn’t in the little town. And it wasn’t in the adjacent, even smaller town of Bubba’s crossroads. It was actually in between the two towns at a little bump in the road that wasn’t even on the map. We had the option of attending any of the events including the “sitting up” the "viewing", the funeral or the gravesite service so we chose the funeral. I figured it was the best thing to go to since usually no one is forced to see the body. The day before the funeral, we heard whispers in the office about this little church and it’s preacher. When I asked what they were talking about they just said he was a little strange but it would be ok. Then they whispered some more.
I also want to tell you that through my years I have been to almost every church denomination out there. Everything from Seventh Day Baptist to Catholic and I have even been inside a Synagogue and heard a Rabi speak but this was different from any church I had ever been in. This was a small town, one room, non air conditioned "deep in the heart of dixie" Evangelical Church. I wore my best (only) suit which was navy blue and I had on a very light blue shirt with a dark blue tie which had a diagonal stripe on it. Nancy wore a black dress which was cut just above her knees with black heels and pearls. It was a little bit low cut but I thought we looked pretty good. Oh Nancy is about 25 years younger than I am. Stay with me, I am just trying to set the stage here.
Ok so we arrive at the Church and like any good Baptist we park in such a way that we can make a quick escape if we need to. (back pew sitter here) We were a few minutes early so we sat in the car and talked. As we looked across the street at the people outside the church, Nancy asked if anything looked strange. I gave it a long look and then noticed what she was talking about. All the men were standing in a group on one side of the church and the women were on the other side. ALL the men were wearing black suits with white shirts and slim black ties. The women all had on floor length dresses that were grey or brown. They were buttoned up high, right to their neck and they all had on black shoes. None of them had on any makeup. I looked at Nancy (who had on makeup) and asked; what have we gotten ourselve into? We both tried to find reasons not to go in but we both wanted to be there to support our friend so we reluctantly went inside.
We could feel people staring at us as we approached the church so we tried not to make eye contact and we quickly slipped inside. Darn, the back rows were reserved so we had to sit about mid way up. You would have thought we were brides walking down the aisle with the way everyone turned and stared at us. We found a pew with only two people in it so Nancy went in first and I slid in beside her. The man she sat beside looked disgusted but he didn’t move or say anything. So there we sat with people staring at us as the church began to fill up. Before long, the pews were full, all except the two seats beside me. Obviously no one wanted to sit there. They brought out the folding chairs which quickly filled up and people were standing in the isles but no one was sitting beside me. Then just before the service started, two young girls in their 20’s came in and they sat beside me. They were also wearing short skirts and theirs were more colorful than Nancy’s. They also had on more makeup and lots of jewelry.
Ok now I am starting to sweat and not just because there was no AC in the building or the fact that there were 100 people in a church designed for a maximum of 50. I could feel the eyes staring at “Big Daddy G and his 3 Ho’s.” I wanted to get up and move myself but it was too late. The service started. Could this get any worse? Oh yes it could. The first thing they did was to prop up the coffin so everyone could get a good look at “Brother Jim.” There was no escaping it. They raised the end of the coffin so that everyone (including me) had to see him laying there.
The preacher was a tall thin wiry man just like I imagined. He held a small black bible in his hand and began waving it as he preached. Now I enjoy reading the Bible and most of it cheers me up. All except for one book and you guessed it. That’s where he opened the Bible and began reading: “It says right here in Revelations that all sinners are going to burn in Hell.” Hey I thought this was about Brother Jim. Why is he looking at me? Maybe it was my imagination but every time he said the words burn in hell, I felt like he was staring right at me and the ladies beside me. Now I really start to sweat. He even jumped (literally jumped) off the stage a couple of times and ran (literally ran) up the aisle and stood beside us as he shouted about fire and damnation. By the time the service was over, Big Daddy G was sitting in a pool of sweat and I have to say Nancy was equally drenched. This didn’t help matters for her either because her once modest dress was now very clingy. When the service ended we were the first ones out the door and we paid our respects to our co-worker and then headed for our car. We were now glad we used the rapid escape plan and we pulled away even before they had Brother Jim in the long black Cadillac.
Once inside the car, Nancy reached under her seat and found her emergency cigarette (she had recently quit smoking) and with shaking hands lit it. Fortunately she only had one because I would have joined her. (I am an ex smoker too and it has been over 15 years since I have had one) I think she took about 4 drags on it and it was gone. We hardly said a word as we drove away from the church. We decided to stop for lunch to calm down before returning to work. When we got inside the restaurant we looked at each other across the table and burst out laughing. Nancy said she would never step foot in a church again but I know she was just joking. I used my company credit card to pay for the meals. As I saw it, they owed us that much.
Have a great day,