Monday, May 30, 2016
The Loved One, Part II: The Rent A Minister
My MIL was raised a Unitarian.
She was not a High Church woman. She embraced all things, all people, all viewpoints in which people could be themselves.
She believed in the good that science could create, but she understood that science could also create things that were not good.
My MIL saw God in a daffodil, in a hot air balloon and in the artwork of all the continents of the world and all of the peoples of this earth.
She also love cooked shrimp.
When my father in law died, we asked the sister of a dear friend, who is a minister to run the service. It was beautifully handled and masterfully guided.
So when it came to find someone to preside over the service, being that we had a holiday weekend, our options were limited. We settled on Fortesque and Son's go to guy, "Pastor Mike". I changed his first name, because we have no idea what his last name is. It never came up.
We explained that MIL was a woman of faith, but that her faith was not derived from an old or new testament, but from the laughter of children, the prism of a crystal reflecting on the wall or a kousa dogwood in bloom.
What we got at the graveside, which happened before the service, was Psalms and "Biblisms".
So the husband pulled Pastor Mike aside and explained, less evangelicalism, more in the faith of mankind.
And when the service started after calling hours...
What. The. Fuck.
We got psalms. We got passages. We got sermoned.
My sister in law, a forty year old, 6'4" tall man named Matthew - who is married to my brother in law, leaned over and said whispered "Sweet smoking Jesus...this is toned down?"
I spoke, my sister in law spoke, MIL's step brother spoke, MIL's sister spoke, all of it was lovely. None of it was Churchy. We were hoping that Pastor Mike would have gotten the message.
He did not.
"And, oh, what a friend we have, in Je-sus..." crapola started anew.
And every time he said Jesus, a bit of me winced inside. I could hear my mother saying "I hate it when these bumpkin ministers throw around Jesus' name like he's their bowling buddy. It is Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ after the first, and Jesus Christ, thereafter..."
From behind my husband, I could see his shoulders hitching up with each preachy word.
As we were leaving, Pastor Mike kept asking how he had done. And we said that he was certainly on his message.
Trust me people when I say this: bargain ministers at a bargain price are no bargain.
Sometimes, I wonder if men of "God" stop believing that this is about helping people and just go on autopilot. Actually, none of the funeral home rental ministers I have ever seen have ever been any good. Maybe that's the price you pay for not having a relationship with an organized body. On the other hand, we should have done a Jewish service. Simple. To the point. Let's go and eat.
In the end I think that a minister at a funeral is simply about having someone who can do and say something so the family of the deceased don't have to do much.
As for me, keep mine, when the time comes, short and sweet. Then everyone should go and eat - a big meal. And maybe a movie. Something to make people laugh. Hang a crystal in the window. Think of me when the light refracts.
Just as I will when I see the same and think of my mother in law.