A few weeks ago I officiated my first funeral. Though an honor to be asked to officiate such a ceremony, this was a tragedy for family, friends and the church. I struggled my way through it in the best way I knew how, grabbing sermons from others and crafting something of my own, which you can find attached at the end of this post. Fighting back tears and doing my best to deliver a message, this was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in ministry yet.
The funeral wasn’t for one person, but two. One of my students lost both of her parents to a drunk driver. Just like that…gone. Unfair. Unjust. Unable to comprehend and explain. I had many family and their friends approach me with “why’s?”
I became comfortable in responding this way, the only way I knew how…
We weren’t created to understand death, we weren’t made to fathom separation from others. We were created for life, life with God and life with each other. When we see life taken from us whether young or old, it never feels right nor should it. We can’t seem to accept death, but we should accept that God has a reassuring hope for us. Through the person of Jesus, He gives us access to life with God and a future-Eden to look forward to in this most desperate time.
Things I recommend you should NOT say to someone that just lost a loved one:
- “I know what you are going through right now.” You probably don’t. Everyone has their own experience, their own relationships, and their own emotions.
- “Are you okay?” No they aren’t! That may sound reassuring but it’s tough right now, and “okay” is a long way away.
- “This is the best thing that could have happened to them.” Perhaps, if the person was suffering. But let the loved one state that, it’s not your place.
Simply state you are sorry for what they are having to endure and ask if they have any needs that you can help meet during this time. Delivering meals, house cleaning, yard work, etc. These small things can really help out a family during the loss of a loved one.
Attached here is my manuscript (names have been altered to respect the family), feel free to use it as a resource as you serve others. Funeral_Manuscript_Parker
Charles Fisk says
That was wonderful I love you Uncle Charles
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks Uncle Charles!
Sean Chandler says
When tragedy hits, that’s when ministry becomes real. Yesterday I did a hospital visit for a family who’s 15 month is very likely about to be diagnosed with bone cancer. When you’re in situation where there are no words to say…that’s real ministry. I went in fully prepared to preach engaging exegetically correct sermons and prepare great events. I still don’t know that I’m prepared for when the realities of life in broken world strike.
All you said was very true. I’ve officiated 3 funerals in the last 14 months, the first being my first. Two were for people who lived long full lives and one was for the death of a teenager. Two were the “easiest” funeral you can officiate and one was very close to the hardest (it was an extremely unexpected suicide), and you really don’t know what people are going through, they’re not ok, and in that context people don’t want to hear that death was a good thing.