by Doug Lawrence
Pope Francis’ recent confession about stealing a cross from the dead body of a fellow priest reminded me of a funeral I attended a long, long time ago – and something that I had never before confessed.
It was a pleasant summer morning at the cemetery. The grave had been freshly dug and the customary Astro-turf had been put down all around the perimeter, with the casket-lowering apparatus set upon it. A nearby oak provided a modicum of shade for all those assembled.
My employer’s elderly mother had passed away, and I was attending the graveside internment ceremony. Since one of my fellow employees and I appeared to be strong, vital, young men, we were assigned as escorts for several of the elderly ladies in attendance. Nobody told us precisely what we were supposed to watch out for or what we were to do. The idea was simply to stay close and offer whatever assistance might be necessary.
The internment rite competed, everyone prepared to pay final respects to the deceased, walking past the suspended casket and placing a flower on top. My fellow escort took up a position in line, some three persons ahead of me. Then there were three elderly ladies – and me. So far, so good!
The procession continued without a hitch, until the lady right in front of me began placing her flower on the casket. Somehow, in the proverbial “blink of an eye” – she just disappeared!
Her scream was not very loud, but it was still blood-curdling. O-o-o-h! O-o-o-o-h! O-o-o-o-o-o-h! as she slipped into the grave – already in up to her shoulders and still going down! Mouth wide-open. Pleading eyes as big as saucers! Hell was about to swallow her up!
Such a thing would have seemed impossible, since there appeared to be only a few inches of clearances between the casket and the edge of the grave. But since the casket was merely suspended on a couple of nylon belts, there was nothing to stop a little old lady from pushing it aside and going right in. I’ll never forget the image, which has been permanently burned into my brain.
I managed to reach down and in one fluid motion, grab her right wrist and hand, pulling her up, out, and setting her right back on her feet. She was OK. In fact, things couldn’t have gone better if we had practiced! I brushed her off a bit and we continued on. Quick as a flash, the incident was over – or so I thought.
Looking up to see how my escort “buddy” had fared during all of this, I was met with a smirk – which quickly escalated to a chortle – which quickly escalated into a full blown, out of control, “laugh-in-church” type of scenario.
The emergency successfully past and safely overcome, there was no denying the levity of the situation. We had just experienced a rare and unusual happening and desperately needed to express our feelings. But we just couldn’t, right now!
So, red-faced and choking back tears, we respectfully made our way back to the car, rolled up the windows, and for the next ten minutes, laughed our respective butts off. I’m sure the car was shaking, the whole time!
We like to think that our hysterical laughter might have been mistaken for grief.
Such is the nature of True Funeral Confessions. Send us your own similar stories, for publication.