I Thought This Was Long Behind Me

As some readers may know, I have a seminary degree and according to a paper in my files, I am an ordained Methodist clergyperson (inactive). During my brief, spotty, career in the clergy, I performed a few dozen funerals. Well, time, belief, and perspective changed. I haven’t conducted a funeral since 1971.
Two weeks ago, the wife of one of my closest childhood friends asked me to officiate at his memorial service. I had learned of his death a couple of days before from his sister and was already planning to attend the service. The request came by email. Because my wife, Shirley, was nearby, I expressed my first reaction in her general direction, “Oh, No!” maybe even a little stronger than “Oh, No!”
But I thought I owed my deceased friend’s widow a more sensitive reply. With considerable trepidation, I called her. I approached my concerns as tactfully as I could. I was relieved at her reaction. She wasn’t expecting and didn’t desire a religious service. She was sure that my friend wouldn’t have wanted one either. I was sure of the same thing but for several reasons I needed to hear it from her. It was okay if there was no mention of a god or an eternal soul; okay if there was no prayer. We did agree on a few moments of silence. What she wanted most was someone that knew him to lead his memorial. I also talked to my friend’s sister and brother. They agreed with his wife. His sister confessed that she had suggested me. As we talked, it was not only clear that this was something that I could do without hypocrisy but something I wanted to do.
The memorial will be Saturday afternoon at a resort north of San Diego. The formal announcement lists me as the celebrant without any further title. I’m fine with that. Two members of his family and I will give eulogies: two spoken, and one as a video presentation. Prerecorded music will feature his two favorite genres: country and western. This is his service not mine. Aside from the eulogy and some other small contributions, I will more or less be the master of ceremonies. Preparation has been harder than I thought it would be. In its own way, this preparation has been abnormally interesting. I’m sure we will cry a little. I’m sure we will remember a lot. I hope we will laugh some too. All three are fitting.