THERE ARE 355 SOULS in Hope, Kansas.
It felt like the whole town crammed into the United Methodist Church there last Saturday for the funeral of 85-year-old Emma Rock.
Normally, I wouldn’t have gone to the funeral—even though Emma was the mother of a friend of mine, and that friend is in my Bible study group.
For one, I had never met Emma.
For another, I would have to drive two-and-a-half hours into Kansas to get to Hope. Driving two-and-a-half hours just about anywhere in Kansas feels to me a lot like getting stuck in an elevator.
What got me to the funeral was fly-fishing.
It’s not that I decided to get in some fly-fishing on the side, after the service. I didn’t. What happened is that fly-fishing gave me the perspective to get there.
I had fly-fished the weekend before last. We fishermen drove four hours each way to get to the trout stream in the Missouri Ozarks.
After I got back home, I typed up the Bible study weekly newsletter, updating the class about the funeral. That’s when it hit me: If I’m willing to drive four hours each way to fish, I ought to be willing to drive two-and-a-half hours to help a friend bury his mom.
It was a no brainer.
I gave no thought to talking myself out of it. The matter became that clear.
My friend told me he had been to a funeral recently where he saw the script that the minister used. It was a cookie-cutter template with a “fill in the name of the deceased.”
My friend said he wanted more than that for his mother. He wanted family and friends to talk about her.
When my dad died I remember sitting at his funeral listening to the hospice minister conducting the service. My parents’ church was between pastors at the time. As the minister spoke, I thought, “Out of all of the people in this room, the only one doing the talking is the one who knew Dad least.”
For the record, that’s not going to happen when my mom dies.
As I sat in the church at Hope, Kansas last Saturday, listening to one of my own pastors conducting the service, I thought, “This is the kind of funeral I’d want to have.”
There were two ministers on the job: a new, local minister from Hope and another minister from the church that my friend and I attend.
Yet the two ministers together didn’t talk as much as the family and friends did.
The rookie minister, a kind spirit it seemed to me, invited people to tell stories about Emma. That produced 10 minutes of silence in 10 seconds, which is nine seconds more silence than most ministers can take. The rookie minister was about to move on when the more seasoned minister stood up and said they should wait a little longer.
Then he asked a question. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was about food. Possibly because the minister was craving more donut holes down in those boxes in the church basement. People started calling out their favorite dishes that Emma made.
Someone said Jell-O. Seemed odd to me. But they served her recipe after the funeral. It was a distinct and especially tasty Jell-O, I’m told. I did not indulge because it was Jell-O.
After the fav foods came the short stories. Some just a sentence or two, spoken while the people were still seated in the pews.
My friend told about his mom hearing a gunshot near their farm. Hunters, Emma must have figured.
She got in her vehicle and hunted down the hunters. They had a dead bird of some sort. Possibly a pheasant, though I could be misremembering, since I hadn’t intended to write anything about it.
Emma asked the hunters if they had permission to be hunting on this land. They apparently said they did not.
Emma told them to hand over the bird. Which they did.
Then she said, “Now get!” Which they did.
I should have met Emma. But not while hunting near her home. If she would have asked me to give her the bird, it would have crossed my mind to do so.
And now for something spiritual
Isn’t it a bit inspiring how God’s Spirit uses the mundane, average stuff of life to push us along in the right direction?
I intended to go fly-fishing to catch some trout and to spend some time with my son, my son-in-law, and some of my friends from church.
But it’s as though God’s Spirit says, “Fine and dandy, but you’re going fishing because I want you to go to the funeral of your friend.”
Blog subscribers who win books this week
- Kathye Parker
- Susan Morris
I give away free books every week to randomly selected subscribers to my free blog or my quarterly newsletter.
Note to the two winners: send me an email and I’ll give you the full list of books from which you can choose.
The deal’s good for a month, or for as long as I have giveaway books available.