I have done many funerals. These funerals have been for infants, older people, and all ages in between. I done funerals for those who died after a slow, lingering illness. I have done funerals for those who died suddenly in an automobile crash.
Years ago, I taught an undergraduate class called Christian Ministry. As a part of the class, students would tour a funeral home. A funeral home director would explain everything that would happen with a family in the home. Students would see the casket selection room, the preparation room, and the chapel. In the chapel the director would give some suggestions regarding funerals.
The following are eight suggestions I want to make regarding funerals.
Maybe you will find one of these helpful.
1. If at all possible, visit with the family prior to the funeral. This is an important time (regardless of how well you know the person) that allows the family the opportunity to tell the story of their loved one.
2. If you are new to the area, ask the funeral home director if there might be any special customs related to funerals that you need to be aware of.
3. Get to the funeral early. Far better to get there with twenty minutes to spare than to show up at the last minute and risk a blunder in the funeral.
4. Know that a short message is better – far better – than long.
5. Make sure to check the pronunciation of family members names before the funeral begins. The family may not remember much of what you said in the message. Certain family members will remember that you butchered their name.
6. Beware of telling stories about the deceased that are crude, embarrassing, or might in some way create an awkward moment for family members. I was at a funeral once where a few friends were asked to make remarks about the deceased. One friend began his remarks by saying “I probably shouldn’t tell this but I’m going to anyway.” I saw several people cringe with embarrassment as he began telling his story. Is such a story really worth this?
7. Beware of making the deceased sound better than she really was. For example, if she was a constant complainer and irritant to people, don’t describe her as a real encourager. I went to a funeral a few years ago with several distant family members of the deceased. After the funeral, a family member said regarding the minister’s remarks, “Was that our brother the preacher was talking about? That’s not the brother I knew!”
8. If the person was a Christian, say something about the cross of Christ and his resurrection. I have been amazed at how often in funerals for Christian people, the resurrection is never even mentioned.