·I tell you the truth [L Truly, truly I say to you], when you were younger, you ·tied your own belt [dressed yourself] and went where you wanted. But when you are old, you will put out your hands and someone else will ·tie [dress] you and take you where you don’t want to go.”John 21:18, Expanded Bible
Dearest Rachel –
No one wants to be at a funeral. Not the family, not the friends, and certainly not the deceased. But we all have to go some time.
It’s all so unfamiliar to have travel here. Start with the fact that I’ve never set foot in the state of Minnesota, and work down from there. Bethlehem Covenant is a lovely church, no argument…
…but it’s a bit ‘high church’ compared to our experience these many years. You would have appreciated the hymns being sung, however – and the fact that I could still sing ‘How Great Thou Art’ from memory, like we did at our wedding. You’d probably have been equally pleased that they sang all of the verses for each hymn – even the Swedish verse of ‘Children of the Heavenly Father,’ which you wouldn’t have known.
Upon reflection, I wonder if the story was more about you than him, but since they were asking for friends and family to relate remembrances, I thought everyone there ought to know about how he welcomed you inadvertently to the family – and how you accepted his mistaken greeting. So I got up, and related it to the congregation.
It seems to have been reasonably well-received, though.
There were plenty of other stories, to be sure – like with your ‘Aunt’ Ruth, Jim was older than I’d realized. When I mentioned where I was going to Tim, and he expressed condolences for having to go on such an errand, he seemed reassured when I implied that Jim was in his seventies, and thus had enjoyed a fairly long life. I had underestimated by at least a decade; cousin Jim had almost matched each of your folks, making it to the age of eighty-eight. He’d done a lot of teaching, a lot of traveling, and made a lot of friends.
One of the problems with funerals is that, as a general rule, the presiding clergy almost by definition (if nothing else, by dint of being so much younger) hasn’t known the guest of honor as well as most of the celebrants. This was definitely the case here as well, the pastor having only relatively recently ascended to the post at Bethlehem. At least there are those who can share the stories of Jim with those of us who only got to see him once or twice a year.
Not only are funerals events you don’t want to go to, you don’t necessarily want to stay there, either. Jenn and Doris make the rounds for the sake of offering greetings, but I confess to not having much to add to the conversation; I’d be just as happy to be on our way back home, even if it does violate my rule about travel (which boils down to it being a wasted trip if it takes longer than the time you’re staying).
I’m not the only one, either; Doris didn’t get him out of sleep last night, as she was dealing with a bad cough. Upon consulting with Jenn and I, it’s been decided that we will forgo the meal at the family’s in favor of heading straight home. Besides, she left her phone behind at the hotel, so we need to head back there in order to pick it up. Just one more place we’d rather not have to go to. Still, at least it’s on the way, and we know where it is, so it always could be worse.
Still, keep an eye out for us, honey, and wish us luck; we’re still going to need it.