Lessons from a Funeral

Two weeks ago for the first time in my life I had to come to terms with grief.  Believe it or not, until then, at the age of 34 I still had all four of my grandparents and until about a month ago all of them were of sound mind and body. (for their ages)  On the 8th my grandfather died and I had to learn to deal with genuine grief. As I’m sure you can imagine, when you are in the ministry, or you work at a church, as I have for the last 12 years, you deal with many people in the midst of grief.    I have been to more funerals than I can count.  Always for me I have been there as a show of support.  I can’t say how many times I have been through a visitation line wondering what I would say when I get to the strangers who have lost a loved one.  Usually I wind up with some form of “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I really liked and appreciated your loved one.”  Many times I have walked away from that brief meeting thinking that I have wasted my time.  Or worse, I wasted their time.  I felt as if I offered no comfort to the family whatsoever.

However, the death of my grandfather was my first time on that side of a funeral and I learned a lot.  Here are the most significant things I learned.

-          Kind words mean a lot.  I know that saying “I’m sorry” seems like a small thing.  But what I learned is that it is not a small thing.  Those words are significant.

-          The food is a ministry.  Several people brought food by the house, My Gramma’s church fed us a meal, and that food is a genuine ministry.  Much more so than I ever realized.  There is a strange comfort in eating.  I guess that’s why there is a whole category of food called comfort food.  Also there is a lot to be done in planning and carrying out a funeral, and lots of people coming around.  Having plenty of good food on hand is one less thing to worry about.  (The only observation I would make here is that there needs to be food brought to the funeral home during visitation.  Five hours is a long time and some food for the family would be appreciated.  I literally never thought about that until this time.)

- Grief comes in waves.  I would be fine for a while, then overcome with sadness.  I'm told those waves come back for a long time.

-          The kindness of people is overwhelming.  I was surprised at how touching it was when people pulled over for the funeral procession.  The same for when people left a facebook message, or a text message, or sent a flower, or a card, or if they donated Gideon Bibles.  Those things are nice acts that people don’t have to do.  When they go out of their way to do them, overwhelming is the only word I can use.

To all of you who were kind to me during this period.  Thank you.  I mean it when I say the kindness is overwhelming.

(And a final note to the person who jumped into the procession until you made it to the YMCA, I’m so glad we could expedite your trip with a police escort.  I hope you got a good workout that day.)