Well, not my first funeral, but the first one I’ve ever officiated. I got the call from my mom last Sunday afternoon that Uncle Walt had passed away and another call on Monday afternoon that my Aunt Lori wanted me to officiate. I was her “first pick”.
At first, with all that was going on back here at home, I didn’t think I was even going to be able to go. But I talked it over with Deanna, made a bunch of phone calls to cancel appointments, re-schedule rehearsals, and get people to facilitate some things while I was gone. The day we left was Deanna’s birthday. There’s never a good time for the unexpected, is there?
I wasn’t sure what was going to be expected of me until I arrived at the house on Tuesday evening. We got in the car and drove the 9-and-a-half hours to get to Coon Rapids, MN (Twin Cities) where I promptly pulled out the laptop and started taking notes. Pastor Brent had sent me a few files to get me organized, which was a great help. I took everything back to bed that night and stayed up ’till about 2:00 AM gathering my thoughts.
I can’t even describe the emotions I was going through. I felt physically sick Tuesday night and most of Wednesday. I don’t understand how one is supposed to “get a grip” when you’re doing a funeral service for someone that you love. I watched as the service area filled up with people and overflowed into the foyer area. Then, I gathered the family together to pray with them, led them into the room where everyone had gathered, took a deep breath, and then the music started playing.
I was already tearing up before I even got to the podium. How do people do this?
I think the service went pretty well. My Aunt Lanette and her daughter Stephanie got up to sing a song, I had everyone stand for prayer, we shared some memories and stories, and I closed with a short five-minute message of comfort. There was one more song and it was over. I “escaped” out the side door and within minutes, tears were streaming… it was like I had been holding it back the whole time and I could finally let it release.
Uncle Walt will leave a big hole in a lot of people’s lives. He was such an amazing person. Here’s a snippet from the prayer I prayed during the service…
Father, God, how can we thank You enough for the gift that You gave us in Walt? He was so full of life that it was infectious.
You gave Walt the gift of caring for and loving people in such a unique way. I canâ€™t remember an encounter with him where I didnâ€™t walk away feeling loved, appreciated, cared forâ€¦ In fact, I think he inspired many of us who lived life next to him. There was just something special about him that made you smile inside.
You created Walt with a sense of humor that could always break the ice. He could be in the room and have the whole place rolling in a matter of no time. Thanks for that.
Walt welcomed you into his life so that you felt like â€œfamilyâ€, even if you werenâ€™t a blood relative. He had a warm, open heart that accepted people. Like You did, Jesus.
Walt was also very â€œrealâ€; he always told the truth, even if it hurt. But thatâ€™s okayâ€¦ so did You. And you both always meant it for the best of us â€“ even if we didnâ€™t understand it at the time.
God, we donâ€™t understand why heâ€™s left us now. Many of us werenâ€™t ready to let go just yet. Our pain, our sadness, and our tears are very real today, but, God, we take comfort in the fact that today Heâ€™s with You.
He believed it. He talked about You with tears in his eyes the last time I saw him. So, God, give him a big hug for us today. Tell him that we love him and miss him terribly.
And God, I pray for the friends and family that are here today (and also those that couldnâ€™t travel here today), that You would comfortâ€¦ surround with hopeâ€¦ use the people in our lives to give encouragement.
God, we pray all this in Your name,