Summary: I preached this at my grandmother’s funeral. She was 88 and althogh her health had been declining, her death was very sudden. Her last request of me was to officiate at her funeral, which I did and was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my ministry.
(Reading of the obituary)
I think it’s pretty safe to say that this day came as a great shock to almost every one of us in this room here today. While we knew that Grandma wasn’t in the best of health, and had some past health issues a little over 4 years ago, none of us thought that we’d be here, on Friday, March 14, 2008 for her funeral service. I sure didn’t think that I’d be standing here today officiating at her funeral service. In fact, when Aunt Linda called me on Tuesday morning of this week, telling me that Grandma only had a few hours to live and asked me if I’d be willing to come down to Atlantic, I didn’t believe her at first. I didn’t want to belive her. While I’d been sick the previous week and unable to visit her over at the Salem Lutheran Home, I had heard from other family members who had been over to see her that she was doing better. The last time I did get to to visit with her shortly after she went into the hospital, I jokingly told her “Grandma, you gave me quite a scare, don’t do that to me,” to which she responded, “I’m still here, and I hope I will be for quite some time yet.” I sure didn’t expect just a few weeks later to be at her bedside when she was called to her eternal home.
So today, I’m presented with what is one of the most difficult things a Pastor can be asked to do, officiate and preach at your own grandmother’s funeral. I’ve been the Pastor at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Audubon for just a little over 6 months, and Grandma marks the 8th funeral I’ve officiated at since I’ve been here. They’ve all been tough ones too. The first was a graveside service for a woman who hadn’t lived in the area for years, and only had her son and his family there for the burial at the cemetery in Audubon. That was pretty tough, coming up with something to say for a family I had never met. I started thinking to myself “They sure didn’t teach me anything about doing a funeral in this situation, so I’ll just do the best I can.” I thought that would be the last awkward funeral I’d have in a while, but just three weeks later, one of the more active members of my congregation in Audubon committed suicide, leaving behind his wife and 4 children, and leaving the whole community in shock. It was one of the largest funerals Audubon has ever seen, and it was by far the largest crowd that I’d ever preached to, before or since. Again, I thought “they never taught me how to deal with this”, but God led me through that. I’ve had another suicide, and several sudden deaths in recent months. And now, here I am today, asked to do my grandmother’s funeral. Again, fitting into the category of “They didn’t teach me how to handle THAT!”, but relying on God to give me the words and wisdom to share with you. So please forgive me if I seem a little “off” today, because I’m not just speaking as a Pastor here, I’m speaking of a man who has just lost his grandmother, and is grieving along with the rest of you.
When we’re called to mourn, one of the things that families find helpful is sharing memories of the recently deceased. In the last few days, I’ve heard a LOT about my grandmother. It’s been helpful for me since until the last few months, I always lived a considerable distance from her and didn’t get down here to visit her as often as I should have or would have liked to. Each one of us here today have our own special memories of her. I’m going to encourage you all to share them with each other later today at the lunch, and in the days and weeks ahead. It’s one of the ways we’re able to realize how gracious of a God we have that he has given us a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, neighbor, and friend to love and cherish these many years. Yet, mourning the death of a loved one can be quite a burden on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’ll wonder if we’ll ever be able to make it. We’ll sometimes wonder why this happened, why now, why this way? Maybe some of you are in the same boat as me, suffering from guilt, if I had just been here longer, if I had come to see her more often, maybe this wouldn’t have happened, or maybe Grandma would have known that I loved her? It’s quite a burden we carry with us today.