Respect my Dying Wishes Please

I haven’t posted anything on the blog for several weeks. I’m not sure there is a real reason for my lack of thought…just tired, I guess. The past few weeks were weird to say the least. I sit here in 80 degree weather remembering that only a week ago we drove home from upstate New York in a snow storm! Global warming at it’s finest.

In Seneca Falls we attended the funeral of a dear family friend. For 67 years she attended a small Baptist church and wouldn’t give up on it no matter what. The politics and formation of this church changed dramatically over the years, yet she kept attending. Her children and their families all left the church citing irreconcilible differences, yet she kept attending. Chief cook, bottle washer and organist for the church and the local funeral home, this dear woman remained loyal to the church she loved no matter who was in charge. She fought against doctrines and ideas she didn’t like. She lovingly confronted behaviors in the leadership she couldn’t agree with. She was open and honest with everyone about her misgivings and concerns for the church body there, but yet she continued to attend. She found it a place where she could meet God, despite the silliness of humanity in the building.

During the funeral, many of the family’s wishes regarding the service went unheeded and the agenda of the pastor took over. The family had asked for only one verse of each hymn to be sung; the pastor decided on all verses of all songs at a VERY slow pace. They asked that the sermon be kept to a minimum length; he talked forever. He manipulated the emotions and heartache of those attending and turned a celebration of this woman’s life into a guilt trip. We were told, in no uncertain terms, that we were either “Children of God or Children of the Devil.” He “knew” that she would have wanted us to come to Jesus and that if we didn’t accept the invitation at the end of the sermon, we were surely doomed. He ended by addressing the family, particularly the grandchildren, by telling them that “if you ever want to see your Bamma again” then they would hit their knees. From what we gathered later by speaking to the family, this pastor tightly controls everything that goes on inside his church. Basically, he is the end all and be all regarding any decisions that are made. No board of directors, deacons or elders can contribute. He used to be an Amway salesman. It shows.

While I know that many attending the service would agree that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and that heaven and hell are very real places, I don’t think this funeral was the appropriate place for an altar call like this! Hellfire and brimstone did not belong.  Especially when her family had expressly asked for something else. Heaping loads of guilt on the grieving family is no way to assuage their hurt or provide comfort. And watching a pastor turn a funeral into a side show of his own agendas and ego is simply torture. Needless to say, I left more angry than anything.

I hope that when I lay in that casket at the front of the church there will be a celebration of my life. If, in that time of reflection, my friends and family begin to question their faith, their future and their lives as they relate to Jesus Christ…fantastic! But I do not want my death to be an opportunity for an eager pastor to rave against evil and condemn my loved ones if they don’t respond to him. I hope and pray that my dying wishes are respected and that my family gets to bury me with grace.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grits n' Grace
    Apr 23, 2007 @ 21:49:01

    That’s dreadful…

    I recently went to a funeral of a workmate and witnessed something very similar. The pastor talked about how successful Rich was in the business world, but that, to his knowledge, Rich was not a Christian. Oh, I forgot to mention the pastor did not know Rich or his family. In fact, he called him “Rick” a couple of times.

    Anyway, same story, he was talking all doom and gloom to a hurting family that needed reassurance and comfort.

    What the heck are they thinking!? It’s just wrong.

    Reply

  2. Leon
    Apr 24, 2007 @ 22:15:56

    When my aunt died the “pastor” spoke about her in ways that my brother and I (pall barrers) did not recognize. At one point I leaned over to Johnny and asked, “Is this the same Aunt Mary we knew?”

    Having people respect the memory of the deceased (in realistic terms)and the wishes of the family is a valuable treasure at times of grief. In my opinion to not do this comes very close to professional mis-conduct. If a pastor is not willing to respect the family wishes, then it would be better to have someone else conduct the funeral.

    Leon

    Reply

  3. jillpewly
    Oct 27, 2008 @ 15:08:45

    Just went through your pages. Tell me about my reassuring championship Do you want a joke? 🙂 What do you call a rabbit with fleas? Bugs Bunny.

    Reply

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