So much for keeping the press out of it. And I swear, despite the fact that I was before about 300 Republicans and fundies, I never used a gender pronoun for God. Just goes to show you that people hear what they want to hear: Intrepid reporter apparently hiding under the organ gets most of his quotes and darn near all of his punctuation wrong.
I began my day with the copier eating my bulletins, so the funeral parlor staff, who arrived shortly after 8 to deliver the bodies, were treated to a performance of a pastor swearing profusely and kicking a copy machine. It didn’t help that I was wearing my ‘does this pulpit make my butt look big?’ shirt, not having done laundry in a week. And my toddler was eating rubber bands and painting her face with nail polish. But, on the upside, one staff member and his daughter decided they’d bring the kids and foster kids to church on Sunday on the sole basis that “she’s a *person*.” We evangelize in the strangest ways.
The family showed up at 10 (I had thankfully changed into my grey powersuit and clerical), and spent more than an hour together in front of the caskets (open at first– yes, that took 12 hours of reconstruction; between the two men there were three gunshot wounds to the head), then supposedly took a break from 11-12 while ‘immediate family’ ate in the fellowship hall. Of course, many more people thought they were immediate family than the immediate family thought, so they ran out of food, much to the embarrassment of our church ladies, who blamed themselves, although they’d been told not to bring anything. I spent most of that time missing that crisis and bringing LittleOne to daycare instead.
From 12 to 2, there were viewing hours for the public. People came in, walked past the caskets, hugged the family, and left. For the entire two hours, the line extended through our foyer, out the front door, across the front of the church to the side door, across the parking lot to the far side, and up onto the lawn, which itself looked like the parking for a county fair. There must have been four or five hundred people through the church in that two hour period.
We still managed to start shortly after 2. The sanctuary was hot and crowded; we’d put up all the chairs we had, nearly 200, and there were people lined three deep along the walls and out into the foyer. The service was okay, although not as good as the one for the congregation on Sunday (much harder when you don’t know your audience and you’re trying to be brief so no one– yourself included– faints). Usually after a memorial service, I feel like the healing process has begun, that good mourning has occurred and people have begun down the long road toward healing together. I didn’t feel that way at all in this instance. Barely a scratch in the surface.
The ‘private’ burial was attended by about 60 family members, and then we all went back to my congregant’s house (me with LittleOne back in tow) and had food and drink, and I actually saw a couple of people smile once or twice.
I can’t believe how much my congregation helped this week, without me even needing to ask. This was a job for about four churches, but they stepped right up, moving chairs and cleaning up and providing refreshments. More importantly, I was flooded with supportive emails and phonecalls, thanking me for Sunday and offering prayers for Wednesday. Good people.