Preacher at the Funeral


Let me start by saying that I understand the role of religion at a funeral. I understand that believing death isn’t real and permanent comforts a great many people. I’m not one of them, but I won’t begrudge solace to those who are.

That said, I despise, with all I am, the time at a funeral that is spent on advertising Jesus instead of on the dead and the survivors.

My grandfather’s service was Friday. He received one of the lovelier eulogies I’ve heard, delivered by my mother and my uncle. They talked about his childhood and theirs. They told the skunk story and about the frustrations of deer hunting with a man who loved the woods but apparently didn’t want to ever have to dress another deer in his lifetime. They talked about his courtship and marriage of 67 years and how he still thought my grandmother was the most beautiful woman he’d met when she died at age 90.

Before and after the people who actually knew my grandfather, a Lutheran pastor spoke. He played some religious music my grandfather had picked out a couple of weeks before he died, songs that my grandfather had sung through his life and that brought him comfort. My grandfather hadn’t been to church in decades, to the best of my knowledge, but that had more to do with an argument with a minister than with losing his religion.

The pastor was perfunctory in those bits of service that are actually service to the mourners. He read the bits of Revelations that deal with heaven without much attempt to string them into coherence. He did not, thankfully, try to pretend that he knew anything about my grandfather, as the pastor at my grandmother’s funeral had done. The pastor was saving his energy, and he was saving it for proselytization.

I don’t know whether anyone told him there were nonbelievers in the crowd. I doubt it. You don’t generally tell someone in a situation like this that he won’t face an entirely friendly audience. I didn’t notice him checking whether everyone prayed either, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t. I was looking out the window, watching the birds outside the window the way my grandfather used to before he went mostly blind.

Still, for whatever reason, the pastor wasn’t content to simply reassure those of us who were religious that my grandfather and grandmother were together again in heaven–or would be together after the resurrection. He was clearly up on his theology but uncomfortable getting that specific with us; he hinted instead.

No, the pastor poured his energy into exhorting us all to believe as he did. There were bits and bobs throughout the service, but the worst of it came as a sermon after the eulogies. It was very much an “Enough about the dead person I don’t know; let’s talk about Jesus” moment.

Heaven is like Disneyland, you see.

The pastor apparently had a desperate need to tell us about the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” and how it played after The Wonderful World of Disney and made him want to go to Disneyland but how he as a child couldn’t imagine ever being able to go to Disneyland because it was so very far away and his family never traveled very far but how he finally at age 31 took his children there and has now been to every Disney theme park except Euro Disney and how that means that heaven may seem impossible but really isn’t. Really.

Me? I had to sit there and bite my tongue about Disney advertising their brand to young, impressionable children and about thin facades of magic and selling us all something we just don’t need. I had to be silent while he got to say whatever nonsense he wanted. And I had to do it at my grandfather’s funeral because selling Jesus to us all was more important than focusing on those of us who were mourning.

It was the single most selfish moment I’ve seen at a funeral, and the pastor didn’t have the excuse of being distraught.

It took all of lunch with my husband and niece and the 18-mile drive to the Fort Snelling cemetery with the motorcycle cop putting himself in harm’s way to smooth our progress to settle my anger. It took the rows upon rows of white stones stretching in all directions to restore my sense of perspective. The 21-gun salute and “Taps” were a far more effective remembrance than anything the pastor had said, as were the very short rituals of thanks from the President and Joint Chiefs of Staff delivered by the volunteers at the cemetery.

Then the pastor showed up again to inject religion into this ceremony as well by leading the Pledge of Allegiance. (It didn’t go quite as he expected, I think. I’ll say the pledge, but I can’t remember where “under God” is supposed to go. I always finish early.) Then another prayer in the cold and the wind.

I was wearing just a wool sweater, where everyone else was wearing winter coats, but I didn’t even notice in my anger. I just wanted it all to be done and over with so I could leave–my grandfather’s funeral.

Now, I’m sure that this pastor thought he was doing what needed to be done. I doubt anyone has ever told him to his face that he made a bad situation worse by his behavior. We don’t do that to pastors. However, after this experience and after hearing from so many people who had similar experiences, maybe it’s time for that to change.

Comments

  1. Aliasalpha says

    You have exceptionally impressive self control, far more than I would have had I been in the same situation

  2. NancyNew says

    You have my sympathy–both for the loss of your Grandfather, and for the hijacking of his service.

    We had something similar happen at my spouse’s father’s funeral. His mother decided to hold the service at the funeral home rather than the church, to avoid the pastor–but he somehow managed to horn his way in–assuming his place in the service and thus making it difficult for her to say no, especially when dealing with her husband’s sudden, unexpected, and fairly trramatic loss, chosing (for himself, not something that my in-laws had chosen) tacky greeting-card-level crap doggeral to read.

    Our considered opinion is that he couldn’t bear to be left out of a high-profile church member’s service, even if they’d pretty much stopped attending. The biggest reason we didn’t want him involved is that, as pastor, he pays strict attention to the members of the congregation who will fork over the most $$$–and it’s blatent. John’s mom has since completely stopped attending, in part to get away from his continued “suggestions” for ways she can memorialise her late husband by handing over chunck of $$$ to him.

  3. says

    First of all, let my express my condolence.
    I’m sorry for your loss. Grandfathers shouldn’t be allowed to die.

    And I know so well how you must have felt.

    I was a teen when my paternal grandfather, a not very good catholic, died.
    I had never beed to a religious burial before so in my naivity I thought that it would be indeed somehow about my granpa, because clearly that was his funeral, the last “celebration” he’d ever get.
    And I was shocked, and angered, and disgusted when that idiot priest mentioned Jesus Christ more often than my grandpa.
    The service was clearly not for him, or us, only for Jesus.

  4. Ray Moscow says

    I also despise the behaviour of most preachers at funerals.

    The one who did my BIL’s funeral didn’t think my non-religious BIL was saved, so he took the approach that he, now being either poised for or already in hell (depending on one’s biblical intepretation), he would warn us not to turn aside from the Lord, if only he could.

    I had to exercise considerable restraint to not kick his ass at the service. I suppose the looks I gave him might have been a clue that he was on dangerous ground, but not before he insulted my BIL’s memory and abused his family.

  5. says

    Preachers at funerals KNOW that it’s the perfect time to peddle their religion. People are upset and vulnerable already, and it’s easy to twist peoples’ emotions enough to get them to do what you want them to do – join their religion.

    It’s exactly how I was dragged into religion – my grandfather’s funeral at 12, and I was dragged into a religion that murdered my love of science, killed my self-confidence, and forced me to hide my bisexuality and gender identity issues.

    (I’m better now, yay dinosaurs! Yay space shuttles!)

  6. JoeKaistoe says

    I can understand your anger, for the same happened at my grandfather’s funeral. The preacher got up on his stage and did it all. The glory of heaven, god and jesus, the torment of hellfire for the unbelievers, right down to the Adam and Eve story declaring us all as sinners who need to have jesus to be saved. He managed to mention my grandfather once, though. He mentioned how my grandfather always seemed to be absorbing every word that he or a guest preacher said, and went on to detail how important it made him feel when he saw people absorbing his bullshit. Nice that all my grandfather meant to him was an ego boost.

    The only consolation is that he wasn’t able to darken the true sentiments of saying goodbye, as that was done in the days before with only family present.

    From that day on, I have no respect for that man, and will never show him any respect for as long as I live.

  7. Finbarr says

    Hi,

    So sorry about your loss and the preacher at the funeral. My Grandfather died this year too, and I had a similar experience. He was Irish ‘cultural’ Catholic, who went to church just to see his friends and go to the pub afterwards. The priest doing the service wasn’t the usual one, so he had never met my Grandfather, but kept on talking about how ‘devout’ my Grandfather was to his religion and how much he loved God, which was utter nonsense.

    To make matters worse, my mother had told the priest beforehand about me being an atheist, so he kept getting in little jabs about non-believers not having the hope and comfort of religion, or not being able to truly know love or grief, and looking right.at.me when he said them.

    It was a deeply upsetting experience, as if the day wasn’t upsetting enough. I detest people who use moments of emotion and grief to sell their stupid, hateful lie. I feel for you.

  8. wesuilmo says

    My youngest brother died unexpectedly a few years ago. He was an atheist and had not been involved with any organized church in years. We all knew he would not want any prayers at his service.

    My other brother’s wife took it upon herself to invite a priest that had been friends with the brother who died to the service at the funeral home. She also insisted the priest say a prayer over my insistence my brother did not believe. While he couldn’t resist the offer he had enough sense to keep it short and directly about my brother (they had been drinking buddies).

    I was furious and only my wife kept me from confronting my SIL about it. She did her best to turn her husband my brother into a fundy and I was glad when she ran off with the mailman. (I know it’s a cliché but she did.)

  9. Chris L. Robinson says

    I’m truly sorry for your loss.

    I think you did the right thing in showing restraint here. Infuriating situation, but nothing would have been gained by making a spectacle *of* a spectacle.

    I, too, am amazed at how often funerals become opportunities for selling heaven.

    I grew up fundamentalist. And even at those funerals the ministers usually try to magic even the obvious “sinners” into heaven through the power of the last-minute or deathbed conversion.

    But years ago, I went to the funeral of a young guy who had been murdered by his pregnant girlfriend after she found out that he’d impregated his former girlfriend at the same time.

    The minister minced no words. He talked about how the deceased was probably burning in hell and how the whole place had better hurry up and get right before they burned, too.

    I had already stopped worrying about hell by that point, but it felt good to see a preacher make clear what Christians think happens when you die unsaved while sitting in the room with the unsaved dead. I kept looking around wondering how the deceased’s loved ones were processing that.

  10. Dhorvath, OM says

    So sorry for your loss. And it is not easier to deal with when your gathering to mourn with friends and family has to endure a sales pitch by some snake oil sharlatan.

  11. says

    I too am sorry for your loss.

    Like so many above, I have funeral stories to tell. On of the most egregious was a committal service for the ashes of the step-grandmother of a friend. This woman had lived most of her life out of the province, so the preacher had never met the woman, not had he met most of us in the graveyard that day. No members of the family spoke, so we were left with the preacher telling us that those of us standing around were on a one way path to hell, but this ‘wonderful woman’ who had recently passed was undoubtedly in heaven. Even the religious people were pissed at that one.

  12. William says

    Sorry for your loss. I’ll pitch in with another tale of a funeral being hijacked by the preacher to sell his religion and church. Many family members spoke up and had wonderful things to say about the deceased. But the preacher was pushing to fill the pews way too often.

  13. 24fps says

    My condolences.

    I was surprised how religious a service my Nana arranged for herself when she passed a little over a year ago. Fortunately for us, the officiating churchman was from the United Church of Canada and didn’t push the religious conversion much – mainly, UCC-ers don’t buy into that. But the references to heaven and resurrection still felt off-key to celebrate the life of an irreverent, fiesty dame like my Nana.

    Due to confusion resulting from general family dysfunction, my mother “forgot” that she’d asked me to write and deliver a eulogy. The Rev. did an okay job of the historical overview, but I’m glad, even though it was really difficult, that I gave the eulogy I’d written. I had a few comments, mostly positive, that people had never heard a eulogy that included a prediliction for hard liquor, men (she always had a boyfriend of some sort, even into her 90s), a liking for fart jokes and rude rhymes, etc. But that was who she was. No orthopedic shoes for her, it was high heels and glamour all the way. I like to think she would have enjoyed the raised eyebrows.

  14. speedwell says

    My sincere condolences to those of you who had to put up with advertising maniacs at the funeral of those you loved. I now know how unusually loving and sensitive my late father’s minister was when my (religious) brother and I were planning Dad’s funeral with her. She had been close friends with Dad, since he had been a church elder, and she knew that I was a deconvert. I felt very awkward, since I had repudiated the very denomination she had given her professional life to expounding. I was a little afraid of what my brother would think, too, but all he said, when we walked into the church, was, “Are you going to have any problems with this?”. No, I said; even though I was not there to worship God, I was there to honor Dad. My brother nodded. When we went in, the pastor didn’t have a word to say about religion. She expressed sorrow for our (and her) loss, and worked out some logistical details with my brother, then turned to me. “I know you and your father loved music,” she said. “Would you like to pick some hymns that you both liked?” Such a nice touch; I was hoping I could persuade her to let me do that. At the actual funeral service, she was very respectful and said the things a close friend would say if that friend were also a minister. She let me speak and say the things about Dad that a daughter would say regardless of faith. My brother spoke like a son, not like a faith witness. It was all extremely proper and decent and sane. I’ll probably wind up having more Goddiness at my own funeral.

  15. Dana Hunter says

    I wish I had the right words for all this. *hugs* for you, one-finger salute for preachers who hijack what should have been a wonderful memorial for a wonderful man to babble about Jesus instead. And then another *hug* for you.

  16. Sam Chapman says

    I’ve already told my parents, both moderate Southern Baptists, that I won’t be attending their funerals. I don’t need to darken that churches doorstep to listen to some corpulent putz in the pulpit babble about Jebus. Funerals are for the living and I’ll celebrate their life in MY way.
    BTW, as a Hospice nurse for eleven years (yes, an atheist Hospice nurse), I attended a few funerals of my favorite, long term patients (oddly, they were usually unchurched) and the bloviating blowhards never knew my patient; they just spit out the usual religious nonsense. One patient M.–an alcohol-swilling, sex and drug addict that managed bars all of his adult life (he really was a cool guy)– had a very interesting funeral. Hearing the preacherman talk about M. made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Fortunately, my beeper went off and I had to leave before I busted out laughing.

  17. jufulu says

    When my stepmother died last May, we held her memorial service in the community room of the facility where she had been living. Through a miscommunication, the minister was given the wrong start time for the funeral. Because we had a deadline on the room, my sister asked one of her friends if she would act as minister and we made it up as we went (not unusual in my family). The result was that we had one of the best funerals I had ever been to. Jesus was held to a minimum and most of the time was spent in remembrances of my stepmother. As my stepmother was good people, there were a lot of people who had something to say about her. There was an incredible mellow vibe going on.

    Then of course the minister showed up and started selling Jesus. After a while, my brother leaned over to me and whispered the words “buzz kill”. Truer words have never been spoken.

  18. Yellow Thursday says

    You have my sympathies. I hope I can cheer you up, even for a few moments, with a personal anecdote.

    My husband’s father died before I met my hubby, but I’ve heard the following story so often it’s almost like I was there. He always tells it the same way:

    Dad was cremated after he died, and the last picture they could find of him was at with his shirt off, beer gut hanging out, a beer in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. So that’s the picture that was sitting in front of the urn at the funeral.

    Dad’s GF was Southern Baptist, and Dad was a non-practicing Jehovah’s Witness. Various family members belonged to various denominations of Christianity. The GF’s brother, commonly called “Uncle Earl,” was the minister of his church, and he performed the funeral service.

    Uncle Earl got up in front of us and began his eulogy. [Hubby does a great impression of a Southern Baptist minister.] “Friends, I was with Fred right before he died. I said to him, ‘Fred, Fred, come back to us, Fred. You have family who need you here. And Fred opened his eyes and looked at me, and he said, ‘No, Earl, I see the angels coming to carry me home.'”

    First off, Dad was in a coma for a week before he died. A coma which he never woke up from. Second, Dad wouldn’t have said that if he was stone drunk. Third, if he was going anywhere, it sure wasn’t Heaven.

    My sister was leaned over, with her head in her hands, shaking. Everyone thought she was crying her eyes out. In reality, she was trying to hide her laughter.

  19. geocatherder says

    I made some of this comment the other day on Hank Fox’s blog, so I apologize to those of you who’ve read it before.

    My mother died in 2003 and my dad died in 2006. Both had services at the same funeral home, but they were very different.

    Mama was a devout Catholic, and the local parish priest came to officiate at her service. We had hymns and a poem that my dad picked out, but the rest of it was just a string of god-botheringness that was meaningless and annoying. The priest didn’t know my mother at all — it’s a BIG parish — and didn’t consult my dad or me about her. He gave a completely bullshit eulogy. I wasn’t angry at the time; I was too numb to feel anything. Later, I was angry as hell.

    Dad was raised Lutheran, but at the time of his death he had a very personal, unshared, view of a deity who wasn’t much in his life. I didn’t bother with a Lutheran pastor, but had the funeral home pastor conduct the service. And this time, dammit, my parent would have a good eulogy. So I gave it myself. This service was about Daddy, NOT about Jesus. And though I had to stop for a deep breath a few times during the eulogy, I’m glad I did it. Daddy got a proper sendoff.

  20. Patrick says

    Amazing how common this experience is, and how much loathing and resentment is created, and suppressed. I had the same experience at a service for my father going on ten years ago. Like nearly all the other posters, I was not prepared for the naked proselytizing that emerged (with preacher supplied by my fundy brother, without consultation from me, anyway), and could only sit and listen to the same crap I thought I’d escaped so long ago. It wouldn’t have been right to make some kind of scene, I told myself – should I have just stood up at this part, and told the preacher he had no business hijacking my father’s memorial and taking advantage of emotionally-stressed people to sell them his product? Now I think, maybe I ought to have done just that. I sure won’t let it happen again, not in my presence.

  21. says

    Patrick, exactly. I tweeted something about it at the time, because it was that or explode, and the reaction I got to that said it might be helpful if people had someplace to vent.

  22. anthonyallen says

    Stephanie, you have my sympathies.

    It’s not an easy thing to lose parents. I know. I have only one parent left, grand, or otherwise.

    But I can’t say that I have noticed any proselytizing, though. At my mother’s funeral about 5 years ago, I was so consumed by my own selfishness over her loss that it could have been held in a Vegas night club, and I wouldn’t have known.

  23. raymoscow says

    This is a bit unconventional, but what if we made it a new practice to start coughing ‘bullshit’ whenever preachers/priests started the god- and hell-talk during the funeral of any nonreligious person?

    If people, especially the preacher, later objected, we could explain exactly what the bullshit was and why it was wrong of them to bring it to the funeral.

    A related note: a friend in rural Georgia had a very difficult time finding someone to conduct the memorial for her husband last weekend. The only people available were preachers (whom she didn’t want for precisely the reasons on this thread), and the one humanist officiant she could find couldn’t make it. Finally a mutual friend — an ordained but very liberal Lutheran minister — agreed to fly in for the memorial, and he did the memorial service without any god talk, since he knew they were both atheists. He is a genuinely good guy.

    If more ministers were like him, the comments on this thread would be very different.

  24. says

    When my Grandfather passed, the funeral home had a minister who did the eulogy. My Grandpa was from an Anglican family, though he was about as irreligious as you could get. He hadn’t attended church in 40 or more years.

    The minister was honestly great. He had taken the time to talk to my mom, my aunt, grandpa’s surviving sisters and brother, myself and my cousin- not about God (though he offered counsel, if we wanted)- but about what we remembered about him. He delivered an almost God-free eulogy. Every reference to God and the church was lighthearted self-deprecation or specifically aimed at my very religious aunts and cousin.

    Most of it was relevant to the man my Grandfather was- and though I wish someone had approached me to do the eulogy- I appreciated that his beliefs were respected.

    My condolences, Stephanie, I understand how profound a relationship with a grandparent can be.

  25. says

    I’ve seen this a few times at other funerals, and I’ve always wondered why families put up with that stuff. But then, so far I’ve been “lucky” enough to have missed most of the funerals for family members who’ve died over the years due to being halfway around the world most of the time.

    I don’t know if I could sit through it without saying something if it happened at a funeral for someone I’m close to…

  26. says

    Felt similarly infuriated by aspects of my grandmother’s funeral. We got a specific lecture about how atheists are hopeless foolish people with meaningless lives but my grandmother knew better. Literally. He called out atheists specifically. I was like yousonofabitch.

    My sympathies aside, I’m sorry again about your loss.

  27. pikeamus says

    My sympathies, I have experienced the same.

    I was also similarly pissed at the naked proselytising at the UKs recent remembrance day ceremony. There were moving tributes and displays from military units, veterans and family of deceased soldiers but then tacked on the end was half an hour of ridiculous religious homilies and jesus babble. It rather cheapened the whole thing I thought and I imagine the families of deceased non-christian soldiers would have been even more annoyed.

  28. Jeremy Shaffer says

    You have my sympathies in both the loss of your grandfather and in the ruination of a ceremony that was meant to bring some measure of comfort to the greived. Like others here I have also experienced both.

    Several years ago both of my maternal grandparents died within a week of each other. While they were religious in nature they were not chruch- going or anything like that. They really were not keen on such practices. It was decided that we would hold a memorial at my grandparent’s home and obtain a preist to officiate. I can’t say if they would have wanted that last part or not but, in my mind, the memorial was just as much for the living as it was for the dead and much of the living in this case wanted clergy.

    The one that ended up presiding over it was a relative of my cousin’s husband. The preacher turned out to be from some fundamentalist church which probably would have caused my grandparents to throw a few disgruntled looks had they been alive. He had never met my grandparents much less many of the people there so, to his credit, he stayed away from acting like he knew them. However, he did make a few pointed statements about the “unsaved” and the supposed fate that awaits them. Most of the people present believed in a Christian- flavored god but none went to church or were all that “devout” in any way except word and judgement. To my knowledge I was the only atheist there but few knew about that at the time. Most likely the statements were meant to scare the straying back into the fold more than the unbeliever since I found them to be more laughable than effective.

    What really irked me and some others was how he acted after the memorial. It was planned that we would have dinner at my grandparent’s home after the memorial and, since the preacher did have a long ride back home, my mom and her sisters invited him to eat with us. From there he started to act like the house belonged to him. He complained that few sat at the dining room table, which he quickly planted himself at the head of, even though there was obviously far more people than it could seat. He acted like we were rude for having conversaions that didn’t involve what he wanted to talk about (care guess what that would have been?) even though he was well aware that many were from out of state and this time would be used to catch up with one another.

    He also asked a lot of particularly pointed and personal questions of myself and other relatives that were, on top of being rudely asked, were designed more so that he could get an opportunity to proselytize. That was what really set me on edge since many in my family at that time had other issues, some quite serious, that they were dealing with and he blithely used them to score points with his Jesus. Particularly egregious was when he started asking my sister about her marriage. In the months prior she had gone through an emotionally tough divorce with a serious jacka$$ that had a penchant for using biblical passages to get his way and otherwise walk all over her. It took a lot of strength for my sister to actually get away from her ex and here was this preacher using the same ammo to guilt her.

    On the bright side, by the time he left over half the people there felt that sitting on the porch and talking about my grandparents and out memories of them while enjoying the nice weather was the best thing to do. In my opinion that’s what we should have been doing the whole time.

    Sorry for such a long post and, again, my sympathies.

  29. Aaron says

    I am sorry for your loss, and I want to echo sentiments above. This was exactly my experience at my grandfather’s funeral, and the very last thing I wanted to think about was the status of my eternal soul.

  30. Adamo says

    I thought the Disneyland stuff was just silly, but since he didn’t know your grandfather, he could only talk about himself. A couple informational bits: the marriage lasted 67 years, not 57, and he stopped attending church (I found out at the funeral) due to a dispute with the minister over the Viet Nam war, when the minister took an anti-war stance at the same time your uncle was serving over there. I suspect he took it as a slam on his own WWII service, as well as a denigration of his son’s.

  31. some Matt or other says

    I’m going to add another distasteful-eulogy story. It’s not particularly dramatic, but it stuck with me:

    It was little over ten years ago, at the funeral of the brother of a friend of mine, and their family was fairly religious in the standard modern-evangelical way. As far as I know, the brother was too, so it was no surprise that the minister spoke about his faith and referred to its content as fact. I was prepared for that, but what surprised me was that he exhorted unbelievers in the audience to repent and come to the Lord three separate times, one of which was during the prayer he led us through. I generally have no problem joining believers in prayer at occasions I’m participating in – it’s a way to consciously focus my thoughts and intentions, and I find the god-bits are usually superfluous to the more agreeable hopes and desires being expressed. Also, thinking the same thoughts for a few moments with a group can have a powerful effect in our social-animal brains, and I see no reason not to try to partake of it for positive purposes. The flipside is that there’s a power-dynamic that I’m sensitive to: The fact that the prayer-leader is literally telling me what to think gives him or her a certain responsibility of awareness. I think there’s a mental vulnerability involved in being led in prayer, and when I heard an altar-call being slipped into it, I felt a little violated. Like he was trying to take advantage of the mental openness that I’d entrusted him with.

    Afterwards, I shared that critique of the service with the handful of Christian friends I’d gone to the funeral with, and only one of them had even noticed that the minister had done anything of the sort. It’s just such a part of the background noise, they become deaf to it.

  32. Ann says

    I’m sorry for your loss. My father passed away this last year and he was a devout man who was very active in his church. Although Christianity was central to his life in nearly every regard, he was fundamentally opposed to exploitative proselytizing and left written directions that he did not want the pastor to “gospel bomb” (Dad’s words, not mine) the audience at his memorial service. The pastor still spent a good chunk of time talking about the exclusivity of Christian salvation and the perils of hell. Perhaps he would have done more if my father hadn’t left those directions, who can tell. Some people just can’t help themselves.

    But I am thankful for my father’s directions. Within a day of the funeral my mom was trying to put words in his mouth to “gospel bomb” all of us, and his own words were able to put a stop to her ghoulish ventriloquism.

    But again, some people can’t help it. Have a hug and some hot chocolate and remember your grandfather’s life, not the jerk at the funeral.

  33. numenaster says

    The only way to avoid this kind of nonsense is to hold a memorial service yourself. That’s what I did when my wife died unexpectedly after a decade of disability had kept her out of contact with a lot of family and old friends. I wanted them to know that her life hadn’t ended when her mobility became so limited, and for them to be able to remember her, and maybe a little for me to hear more about her life before I met her. So I put together an event focused entirely around sharing stories of her life–exactly what people would have done after the meaningless religious blather anyway, and what everyone would have remembered as the most important part.

    I got a hall at the city’s senior center, put together a slide show from our pictures (and what an ordeal it was to go through those!), wrote a biography with help from her mother, assigned her ex-husband the actor to read it (he did a FANTASTIC job), got my brother the theater sound designed to put up some mikes around the hall, buttonholed her favorite aunt to be the first to talk after the biography, prepped a few stories myself, and went through the Xanax like it was candy all that week. There was a long table at one side of the hall with some of her fossils, ancient coins and sports memorabilia, and cards and pens on each table so people could write stuff if they didn’t feel up to speaking. We even had cake–turns out we had far more cake than people could eat, in fact. It was more like a retirement party, except for the fact that our honoree couldn’t be there to enjoy the attention. And it was the best funeral I’ve ever been to, even if it was the one I least wanted to ever attend.

  34. jammmabeanz says

    My condolences to all of you, and thank you so much for your candour. I’ve been obsessing over our first funeral (Mom’s), and trying to get her poop in a pile and write her wishes down. Reading this has helped streamline my thought process.

  35. Rick Schauer says

    Steph,

    Truly, sorry to hear about your grandfather and the unfortunate events during the funeral. My mother died this past summer and I had to endure much of the same lutheran bs (this being Minnesota and all) – plus the added bonus of a few conversion attempts as well.

    As a result, I found and added these guys to my Facebook fam:
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/faithfreegriefsupport

    And it kind of helped me feel I was not alone and maybe, just maybe, some of the godbots related to me will see it and click to get where I’m coming from.

    Hope all is well with you and Big Z and again, sorry for your loss.

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