What's it like to plan a funeral for your beloved?
It’s like planning a wedding. All the same logistics. You have to decide what songs and scriptures and who will say what and when. You get a guestbook. You write thank you’s. You coordinate musicians and work with the church. You choose flowers. You plan a reception.
Except you do this in 5 days time. While grieving that the one you love is not by your side helping you. You don’t get to tease each other and draw out the process and kiss each other to celebrate a decision made.
So you don’t really grieve. You see other people crying and healing and telling you how the stories and memories minister to them. And you don’t get to really grieve yet. Your grieving is stunted because of all the decisions and meetings and briefings and vocabulary and acronyms you wish you never had to learn.
And then you wonder. Is everyone else going to be healing when you just begin the grieving? And you wonder if the overwhelming response by people in the beginning when you’re already overwhelmed… will they remember you when you really need them? When it gets really hard?
They ask you to take a big, fully lived life and a huge love and cram it into such tiny places. Cram it into only 50 photos and 3 songs. I narrowed it down to 774 photos one day. Then down to 120 the next. And that’s exactly how all this feels right now.
They ask you to do this on such a tight turn around. If that were the only to-do for the day, sure. But no. Write the inscription for your husband’s tombstone. Write the obituary. Answer all the questions. Coordinate with all the people. Does Mark know? Did Todd hear? So you go and you go.
If you know anything about me, you know this is not how I operate. My husband is the decisive one. He’s the administrative one. He’s the cool and steady under pressure one. And so, if you saw me operating, then you know how much Grace led the way and Holy Spirit lived in me.
And I was never alone. I was surrounded on every side. And the Lord sent me the exact helpers who specialized in certain things exactly when I needed them.
Like when I had to fill out all this paperwork regarding funeral choices and I didn’t even know what they meant… Pastor Chris was my lunch date that day. And she happens to have done hundreds of funerals. (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. Can’t remember. Forgive me if it’s more like a hundred?) So she explained everything to me when I’d have otherwise been beside myself and lost and on a time limit.
Same with Ms Judy who walked in right when I needed someone to take a second look at the obituary. She happens to love editing and is good at it.
And when I needed someone to hold my hand and just help me get all the decisions made on songs and speakers and everything… Pastor Christine showed up. And she’s good at that. We prayed and in thirty minutes time, Holy Spirit rushed in as My Helper.
My mom and dad filled in every gap.
And my prayer mentor “happened” to work in a funeral home for a time, so she was able to help me ask for things I didn’t even know I could ask for. Like the shells of the 21 gun salute. And she emotionally prepared me going in of all the things they would ask. If not for that call, I would have felt slammed against a wall. You walk in, sit down, and they’re like, “So, do you want him cremated or in a casket? What kind of casket? Steel gage or chestnut? Which cemetery did you pick? Private or national? Do you have a funeral home secured? What will he be wearing? Full service dress and clean shaven or something else?”
I told them kindly, “Assume I have never even considered the answers to the questions you are asking. I’m probably just gathering the questions today that I need to think of answers for. I won’t be able to answer right now.”
Now, of course, they were considerate and slow in their asking. They knew when I needed to take a break. Their eyes were as welled up with tears as mine were. And that was another gift. The captain spoke very slow when she asked those questions. I thanked her for speaking slowly. I said, “My husband spoke slowly. Thank you for speaking slowly with me.”
This is only a small scratch of the people who I thank God for, who helped me on every side.
No matter how horrific your situation, there’s always someone to thank. One of my favorites is the janitor in the gas station or restaurant bathrooms. I love to thank them for keeping it clean! What would it be like without their work!?
Planning a funeral for your beloved is like planning a wedding in five days time while grieving.
Your life is but a breath. And so is mine. So as abruptly as life can end, I’m going to end this post. I’m going to go watch a show with my little sweethearts. But I’ll leave you with two brief and timely questions:
1.) Who can you thank today for helping you?
2.) Who is right in front of you today that you can love well?