The usher handed me a printed program as I rushed into the funeral home. It was only when he spoke that the mental clues began to fall into place: “Are you the minister?” Well, I did go to seminary, I thought to myself as I stared at the well-dressed man, wondering how he knew. I opened up the program; yep, there was my name: Cindy Adcock, Officiating.
There was a part of me that was not surprised that I would be officiating at Ernest’s funeral. I had prepared somewhat for such an eventuality, though not exactly for this eventuality.
Ernest’s sister, Rose, had called me the day before. Pat and I were on our way to Laurinburg, ironically for a memorial service. Pat’s beloved Uncle Charles had died a month earlier. His funeral was held in California, where he had lived for decades, but he was now being buried at the McCoy family plot. As we traveled the rural back roads, I was in a haze watching the ice-covered trees give way to a drier, but still bleak, landscape.
Rose asked if I would be coming to Ernest’s funeral. “Of course,” I answered without skipping a beat. I had never been to a client’s funeral before, but then I had never been invited. “I was also wondering if you would be willing to say a few words,” Rose added tentatively. “I would be honored,” I replied reassuringly.
Perhaps it was my preconceived notions of what a funeral for a man just executed might be like, but my mind latched onto “a few” words. I imagined a few friends and family members gathered in a small room taking turns saying “a few words” about what Ernest had meant to us.
After Rose hung up, I turned to Pat, who was driving. “The funeral is tomorrow in Kinston.” I paused and then added, “You will go with me, right?” I expected he would. Pat had been my rock over the last week. Besides, I knew he understood the importance of funerals, always attending those of friends and family. He had flown across country to be at his Uncle Charles’ funeral.
My cellphone rang again. I looked down at it and saw Rose’s name pop up. Guess she forgot something. “How do you want to be identified in the program?” Rose asked, quickly adding “Reverend?” Hmmm. My mind searched for meaning in the question. I had been Ernest’s lawyer. Would that be appropriate? “No, not Reverend,” I responded. In the end, I left it to Rose.
That was an odd question, I thought to myself after we hung up, but my mind quickly turned to other matters.