I recently attended a funeral where the pastor was not acquainted with the deceased, or the family. Beforehand, he’d been in touch with the family via email to learn something about the woman who was to be buried. He asked for stories.
At the graveside, he recounted stories, wove them into his funeral services–sometimes the whole story, sometimes just a reference. I could tell these stories made a difference.
I wonder how many of us hope for a narrative that makes sense at a funeral. That the person who died had a story of their life–one that seemed to have an arc, a climax, a purpose. While we often choose a minister who personally knew the deceased or at least the family, I can understand how much more a family who doesn’t know the minister might be yearning for him/her to speak a narrative of a life they knew, even if he didn’t. And what pressure on a minister to create that from stories and testimonies.
But still I was awed by the feeling that he successfully gave back to them a story of their mother–a life they recognized, complete with purpose and narrative arc, as if it had been written by her, or by God himself. And how they seemed satisfied by that story–as if the completion of a story gives us closure.
Certainly those of us who are living hope that our lives are creating a story with a narrative arc. I’m thinking I should jot down some notes for a minister here about what my story was–just in case he needs some pointers.