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Weekly commentaries on current issues. Commentaries are posted every Monday, in English and Spanish. Please, read our previous commentaries in the Archive section.
Some time ago, I attended the funeral of an octogenarian lady I never met, but I have known for many years one of her daughters. In those circumstances, there is almost nothing you can say or do, except be there with those in mourning, affected by an irreparable loss. Yet, as I was about to discover, there is a way to ruin and disrespect even that special moment.
Four generations of the descendants gathered to honor their deceased matriarch. Dozens of other relatives and friends of the family were also there, at a small chapel. When everything was ready, the funeral service began with some introductory remarks by the presiding pastor.
An hour later, this “pastor” was still speaking, but not about the late grandmother, but about himself, about his career, and about his qualifications for his “ministry.” At the same time, several of the daughters of the late grandmother were loudly crying.
Even worst, the pastor tried to incorporate songs to his sermon, yet, the person in charge of the computers didn’t know how to do it, so several images (nothing indecent, but still) which shouldn’t be projected to a screen next to the coffin were projected.
I thought nothing else could go wrong, but then the pastor, without any previous request, asked for the biography of the lady to be read, but there was no such biography, except for the name of the lady, the date she was born, whom she married, the date when she passed away, and her place of birth.
Without warning, the pastor asked one of the daughters of the deceased lady to say something about her mother. The situation was uncomfortable. After several minutes of silence, the daughter did share nice words about her mother.
Then, the pastor keep talking about him and his ministry. From time to time, he paused to look for verses from the Bible in his smartphone. He quoted several verses, inspiring thoughts indeed, yet, contrary to what he said, not from the Bible. In many cases, those thoughts were not even related to a funeral service.
Finally, an hour after he began to talk, the pastor said that it was time for the final prayer to conclude the service. During the prayer, the pastor asked for the divinity to comfort the family, yet the prayer was as long (or so it seemed to me) as the previous sermon. And, again, almost nothing said in that prayer was connected to the funeral of the old lady.
Is this an example of how much we have devaluated death and religion? Have we lost all respect for life and for the mystery of life to the point of being unable to articulate a coherent sermon during a funeral? And if we treat the dead in that way, what are we doing to the living ones?
Death is the only thing we all have in common. We should respect it and therefore an improvised speech is unacceptable. Am I asking too much?