Quietly in the background
As Jesus approached Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd, “he met a funeral. The dead man was the only son of his widowed mother; and many of the townspeople were there with her.” (from Luke chapter 7, verses 11-17)
It is such a comfort for a bereaved family to be supported by neighbours, friends, people from work, folk from church …
At the moment of course the family is deprived of this support, and it has struck me that one of the hardest things is that it’s not possible for everyone to gather after the formality of the service in the more relaxed surroundings of the hotel, pub, church hall or home. It doesn’t matter where – what does matter is that each person gets the opportunity to share their memories, to hear others’ stories of the deceased, to laugh, to cry, to reconnect with distant relatives, to hug, even to have a bit too much to drink.
Instead, to watch people returning to their cars, in ones or twos, and driving off in different directions, is quite heartbreaking.
But there are others to consider in this scenario: the staff at the cemetery and crematorium and the funeral directors. They are key workers just like the nurses, postal workers, truck drivers and checkout operators, etc. etc. but do you clap for them on a Thursday at 8.00 pm?
No doubt some of you do. But many will avoid thinking of them for they are too uncomfortably linked to death, whether or not that death is coronavirus-related.
As students for the ministry, we were advised by one of our lecturers, himself a parish minister, to “make friends with your funeral directors”. That is something I took to heart and have tried to put into practice. In fact I was very relieved that my first service following the lockdown was with a funeral director I’d known for many years, so that I felt comfortable asking him about what aspects of the procedure would be different from normal.
A good funeral director tends to stay in the background as much as possible, but without him or her we would be lost.
Please keep them, along with crematorium and cemetery staff, in your mind when you next “shout out” for our key workers.
Not forgetting the florists whose artistry also plays an important part in our tribute to the one who has died.