We have a funeral at the church tomorrow. It may sound strange, but it’s a privilege to be with people at this point in their lives.
One of the churches I served in Chicago had an interesting arrangement. We told the local funeral home that if anyone didn’t have a connection to a church, but wanted a religious service, to call us. We felt like people should be comforted when they’re grieving the death of a loved one. If they wanted the Bible read, who cares if they hadn’t read it for years? We would read it and offer prayers.
Now if that sounds really gracious, let me confess something. See, at that time I had three children 3 years old and younger. If I’m honest, I will admit that part of my motivation in officiating these funerals was that a check often accompanied their thanks.
But over time, something began to change in me. As I would sit with the families to plan the services, they would tell me stories about their departed loved ones. I paid attention to the people who were grieving. One guy drove back from South Dakota to bury his wife. He was in his 80’s and still worked 7 days a week. He also drove a mint 1980 Cadillac Seville. Another time I did a service for a guy who was 100 years old. He had emigrated from Ireland in his 20’s. He saved his money to get over here by putting together a traveling circus with his brother. Fascinating stuff.
There are two things I’ve learned from funerals over the last 20 years.
- Everyone has a story. I’ve not done a service for a Nobel Laureate or Heisman winner. But every person has a story and it is fascinating if you’re willing to listen.
- I’ve never sat with a grieving husband who said, “I miss her. She was so hot.” When you’re in love with someone, it’s often the smallest most mundane things that mean the most to you. It’s the small acts of kindness, the gestures many won’t even remember. But they’re there. The small daily reminders of a life well-lived. Those are the real memorials.
So, tell your story. Listen to others. Be kind. Care about people. These are the things that build a legacy.