Saturday, November 3, 2012

The wrong funeral

All the clergy in my diocese had an email from our bishop the other day informing us of the death of a brother priest. Being still fairly new to the diocese, there remain some of  the clergy with whom I am relatively unfamiliar. However, I placed this name at once, having chatted with him briefly at our recent clergy conference.
'O dear,' I thought. 'So young. Only a couple of years older than me.' 

Arriving at the church this morning for the funeral I paused for a moment by the door to admire the large and somewhat unusual casket. As I stood, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was our bishop, standing at the rear, having a brief word with a clergyman who had his back to me. The priest turned; my jaw dropped slightly. I looked from him to the casket and back again. My colleague saw me looking & came over and offered me his hand. 

'Morning. Good to see you again,' he said. I shook his hand, a little weakly, and said nothing. But there were many things I could have said. Like: 'I'm so glad that you're not dead.' It didn't seem appropriate somehow.

I sat down in a pew with the person I had traveled with and spent almost a minute staring at the name on the service sheet, trying to figure out how I'd gotten things wrong. The little grey cells finally fired into action & let me know that it was merely a matter of a slight similarity in the names between the man in the casket and the one I had just shaken hands with. My companion leaned over to me.

'I thought you said he was dead?'
'Well clearly he isn't!'
'So who is?'
'I have no idea. But he's still a brother priest in the diocese. We would have come anyway.'

And so I would have. And I will also note, that having heard the address at the funeral I am truly sorry I never actually met this person in this life. It sounded as if he was truly a remarkable man, who faced the troubles life threw at him in an inspiring way. 

However, I'm not sure if I'm ever going to be able to look at that particular colleague whose funeral I thought I was attending in quite the same way again!

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