Friday, January 26, 2007

Carside Funeral

I had a first in my pastoral ministry today--a carside funeral. Before you jump to conclusions and envision something on the order of the Crystal Cathedral with multiple cars sitting in a huge parking lot for a funeral service, let me clarify. I officiated the service for a sweet Christian lady who had been a member of our church for 66 years. She was born in Germany on Christmas Day, 1904. That's right, she was 102 years old! I had visited her regularly at one of the local care centers during the past 3 years and appreciated her sweet spirit. Communication was a challenge as she was almost deaf, but I discovered if I spoke loudly into her left ear at a distance of 2-3 inches, she could hear and understand me. She would frequently ask about old friends from church (some who had passed away but she still regularly inquired about them) and I would share some of the events in the life of our congregation. Before I would leave, she would always say, "Would you say a little prayer for me?" I would always conclude our time together in prayer for her.

She passed away this past Tuesday in the wee hours of the morning and the funeral home contacted me about conducting a simple graveside service for this morning. I knew the crowd would be small as Anna had outlived all of her family and peers except for a nephew. A total of 5 folks showed up besides the funeral director and myself. The problem was that the gravesite was about 40 yards or so from the road, and a good part of that was still covered by snow and ice from our recent winter storms. One elderly lady with a walker tried to make it a few steps and realized that it was going to be too difficult to travel that distance on uncertain footing. (On a parenthetical note, we've already had 3 church members fall and break various limbs on the ice in recent days, including our minister of education with an ankle broken in 3 places). With all of that in mind, Sean (the funeral director) and I opted to encourage this elderly woman to sit in her car along with her sister with the window down and we brought chairs from the gravesite area for the others to sit on during the service. It was quite cold in the wind still, so I abbreviated a little of what I had planned to say. Those present were appreciative of the consideration and expressed thanks for the service afterwards.

Has anyone else ever had an unusual experience at a funeral service that you would be willing to share?

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