One small step…

… one not so giant leap.

Today I got to participate in a funeral for the first time. It might seem odd that I haven’t done so before now but the opportunity simply hasn’t arisen (and I’ll not mention the microscopic funeral count, relatively speaking, to be ‘enjoyed’ in Brussels).

So having had the opportunity to participate in the pre-funeral visit, it was good to get the chance to play a little part in the service itself. In the liturgy used by my supervisor, there’s a brief welcome, the opening hymn, a short opening prayer, a reading and then the tribute. Thereafter, there’s another longer prayer, the ‘intimations’, closing hymn and benediction. I was down to do the short prayer and reading but with 10 minutes to go it was suggested that I might as well take it from the start to minimise the swapping back and forward.

I know some people would throw their hands up in horror and suggest that that was unfair to spring such a thing on me, but, let’s be honest – it was only a few words of welcome and announcing the hymn. If I can’t cope with that, even at short notice, then I’ve got other things to worry about.

The service went well, I thought, and there was only one verbal trip and that wasn’t mine. It was received with good grace and some amusement so perhaps it was a good reminder that, even if we do slip, the world isn’t going to come to an end.

One of the mourners was particularly emotional at the start of the service and my supervisor commented that I had done well to keep it from putting me off. To be honest, I was so focussed focused on getting my bit correct that you could have marched a band through the place and I wouldn’t have been put off. But that’s also a useful reminder. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in what we are doing that we can forget that there are others there who may need an extra word of encouragement or a little time to gather themselves. Being sensitive to that is a large part of what has to be learnt in the formation process.

So, another pre-funeral meeting tomorrow with the funeral on Friday, this time doing the latter part of the service, after the tribute. By that time I’ll practically be an expert.

8 responses to “One small step…”

  1. Yes there was – it’s incorporated into the second prayer.

    I can see the justification for this. It can be a particularly emotional point in the service and to have the words of committal wrapped into the prayer means that it is being done at a more ‘discreet’ time. Not so much to hide it, but rather to have it happen during a phase when people may already be reflecting on the death and life of the person.

    Would I always do it that way? Not sure, but I certainly see the merit of it.

  2. I sometimes have the committal during a prayer. It isn’t my usual practice, but there are times when the emotion of the occasion bubbles up at that point in the service. At other crematoria the words of committal coincide with curtains drawing across and this is the last families see a loved one and it can be rather dramatic.  Falkirk Crem has the coffin covered as soon as it is brought forward and then lowered during the first hymn. It is advisable to have a decent length of hymn, otherwise machinery is heard lowering the coffin and that isn’t particularly helpful. 

  3. By that time I’ll practically be an expert.

    My sister, a medic, used to say that with medical/surgical procedures, sometimes it was “see one, do one, teach one” – I never quite figured out if she was winding me up!

  4. Hi Dave,

    Not dissimilar to my supervisor’s maxim of “see one, share one, do one”. I think your sister’s one is just a tad scarier though.

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