A burial service is supposed to be a solemn occasion, but I’ve left several cemeteries red-faced instead of teary-eyed.
Once a preacher showed up at the cemetery, saying the family asked him to help me with the service. I let him say a few words and pray after I read scripture. I found out he was preaching at the wrong man’s grave when he started calling the deceased by a different name in the middle of his message!
At another cemetery, I surprised myself. As I finished my prayer, I decided to honor the dead by taking off my boutonniere and placing it on the casket, a tradition I had learned in Mississippi.
But I was in Georgia, where this tradition was unknown, and the congregation didn’t have a clue what I was doing. They were even more baffled when I stepped on the green carpet next to the casket, and my foot went knee-deep into the grave.
Quickly, I jerked my foot out of the grave, and threw the boutonniere up on the casket and made a quick exit.
But the strangest thing I ever experienced was a graveside service I did in Reidsville, Georgia. The man being buried was in his 90s, and the pastor who knew him was unable to conduct the service, so I agreed to do the service, at the request of his relatives who attend my church.
We’ll call the deceased “Lloyd” (not his real name). The family told me some stories about his life, and added that his girlfriend from the nursing home would be there, and I needed to mention how they loved each other. We’ll call her “Ruby” (not her real name, either). I asked how old she was, and I was quite surprised when they said, “45.”
I arrived at the funeral home in Reidsville, where they were having visitation for a few minutes before going to the cemetery. There I met Ruby. Three women from the nursing home were with her, wearing their nurse uniforms and name tags. Ruby was sitting there with a single carnation in her hand.
I quickly realized that she was mentally challenged. (What I did not realize was that she was later going to challenge my mind.) I greeted Ruby, and remarked that I heard she was really good to Lloyd. She said, “Yeah, we really loved each other. Every night we would cuddle together until 9, when the nurses made me go back to my room.”
I had a feeling this was not going to be a normal graveside service, and boy, was I right. I’ll tell what happened in next week’s column.
(Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers. Email: email@example.com. Read this column each Friday in the Herald. Visit my blog at www.bobrogers.me.)