I’m sure I’m not the only one who shies away from funerals as compared to those who attend funerals without hesitation.  My mom said a woman in our hometown attended every funeral she could, whether she knew the deceased or not.  She seemed to consider it her duty to be there for people’s final farewells.  This woman often said, “People are dying that never died before.”  Hmm. I doubt that anyone in my hometown argued that point. 

Years ago, I had to attend the church funeral for a cousin who had lived life to its fullest.  As one person said about my cousin in her old age, “Things she used to do, she just can’t do no more.”

The officiating minister for my cousin’s service had not actually known her, since she had not been a churchgoer.  But, as is often done, the minister spoke highly of her, praising her devotion to family and friends (relatives and friends didn’t know where she was half the time), praising her generosity (she always paid her church dues), praising her talents (she had sung in bars and nightclubs), and thanking her and her maker for her precious life on earth.

One of the choir members in the choir loft stood up, looked down at the casket, wiped her eyes and sat down.  She appeared to be touched by my cousin’s passing.  She told me later that because of what the minister was saying, she had to look down at the casket to see if it actually was my cousin lying in there.  We laughed.  The minister had certainly done his best to praise my cousin into heaven.

Years later, I attended another church funeral in which the minister either believed that the congregation was deaf or the Lord was deaf and the deceased needed to be shouted into heaven or the deceased could be awakened.  The minister yelled throughout the eulogy at the top of his lungs, increasing the volume of his words with the use of a microphone.

The minister was so loud that it made me wince as my ears vibrated.

I thought:  Wouldn’t it be funny if the deceased suddenly sat up in the casket and told the minister to shut up, proving thereby that the minister’s loud volume could indeed wake the dead.

I clenched my jaws to keep from smiling at the thought.  All right, so maybe I should have been ashamed of myself for imagining such a humorous thought while in church during a funeral.

Well … I wasn’t.  The thought still tickles me.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...