Death on a Monday Night

I didn’t find out until Tuesday, but my aunt died Monday night. I guess I said that in my last post.

It’s weird being a minister at a family funeral. It’s like no one knows what to do with me. I suppose I wouldn’t, either, if the roles were reversed. Cousins that joke with my sister and her boyfriend apologize and “straighten up” when I show up, or they remember what I do for a living. It’s almost humorous to watch.

And then there are the things that I just don’t know what to do with, and I think I don’t know what to do with them because I am a minister, I’ve been to seminary, I’ve studied Greek and Hebrew and pastoral counseling. Like my uncle who said that he saw two – no, he corrected himself, four – angels in my aunt’s hospital room. One was my deceased grandmother and one was possibly my grandfather. And the whole (immediate) family – including my father – tears up as he is telling this story around the breakfast table. My wife (who also went to seminary) and I sit and continue munching on our breakfast, not really sure what to make of it or how to respond. It felt weird to keep eating. I’m sure it would have been worse if we had stopped and tried to fully engage the story.

The pastor of the church my aunt attended is around my age – possibly a little older, possibly a little younger. He was at the wake last night. It was awkward watching him do his thing. He is clearly an MBTI extrovert (I am very much an MBTI introvert). The style of ministry and comforting is very different. Being with family made it all very different, as well. He prayed his prayer, and I spent the time analyzing his theology.

45 minutes into the three hour wake (we’d been there longer, with the family), my wife and I left. My parents told us we could. But this morning I wonder if it was the appropriate thing to do. My cousins were staying. My sister and her boyfriend were staying. But I, a minister by trade, left the family and friends that were streaming through to their grief. We went to Wal-mart, got some TV dinners to heat up in our motel room’s microwave, and watched two episodes of CSI and an episode of Without a Trace before we realized that it was well past time for the wake to be over and my family to be back. We thought they would call. They didn’t.

It’s just all weird. I don’t know my place. I don’t grieve for my aunt; I empathize with my father. I feel like I should be shedding more tears. I should be offering some kind of comfort to my family. I should be more than a fixture sitting on a sofa for less than an hour of the three hour ordeal last night.

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One thought on “Death on a Monday Night

  1. It’s OK not to grieve. And it’s OK not to have been there the whole time. Sounds like it wouldn’t have been good for any of you – you’d only be more frustrated.

    It’s times like this I’m going to try to clarify my role… if it’s possible. I’ve gone through this exact thing a couple of times – it would be so much easier if people would just treat me like a minister, instead of that in-between. I could just go about my business, doing what I do. But they know me too well for that, and I know THEM too well.

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