Death still stings, even for a Christian. My nephew died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 40, and I had to make all the arrangements. I’ve had too much practice doing so; I think this is the fifth person I have buried: my parents to start, then an impoverished acquaintance who was alienated from his family, another relative, and now my nephew.

Fortunately we have a priest who is a family friend; he grew up with my mother, and then presided at her funeral. He is dignified.

At many funerals I feel more anger than grief. Some priests try to lighten the occasion by telling jokes. Even worse, eulogies give someone the opportunity to those who finally have a captive audience, and go on at length about how funny the deceased was when he was drunk, and boy he had an eye for the girls, etc. I try to make the service recognizably Christian, and I think music is the best way to do it.

At my nephew’s funeral the choir sang I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, The King of Love My Shepherd Is, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, the In Paradisum, and Jerusalem My Happy Home.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive, It keeps my dying faith alive

This fruit does make my soul to thrive, It keeps my dying faith alive

Which makes my soul in haste to be, With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

What other comfort have we but that the Good Shepherd will not leave us in darkness.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed

But yet in love He sought me

And on His shoulder gently laid

And home rejoicing brought me.

And He will wipe away the tears from every eye.

Jerusalem, my happy home, God grant that I may see

Thine endless joys and of the same partaker ever be.

At the conclusion of the burial service the priest took dirt from the grave and made the sign of the cross on the coffin, saying

“I seal this grave until the day of the resurrection,”

when, I pray, we will all meet again, never more to part.

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