Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My first funeral

I did my first funeral this evening; it was an interesting experience. The funeral was for Richard Haemmerle, Bill Haemmerle's dad. Richard had been to TF a few times with Bill and Karen. Between trips to the hospital and nursing home, I'd had some good talks with Richard.
To be honest, I don't think I was prepared enoughfor the message, though. The family members said I did fine, which is what really matters, but I was nervous the whole way through. I could tell I was nervous becuase I kept losing my place and stumbling over my words. I think I underestimated the difficulty of giving inspiring words to a hurting crowd.
But overall it went well. I think I was able to give some biblical encouragement to the family and friends. It's quite an honor to be able to do the funeral for a good man who lived a long, good life. Incredible privelege.

Here's a copy of what I said, if anyone is interested.

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to this time of celebrating the life of Richard Haemmerle. Richard gave his family and friends a lot to remember and a lot to be thankful for. We can also be honest and admit that tonight is a time of mourning. It hurts to lose the people we care for the most. It hurts to say goodbye to a Dad; to say goodbye to a Grandpa.
We read in the bible of a time in which Jesus’ first followers were getting ready to say goodbye to him. Jesus gently reminded them that the goodbye in this life, as painful as it is, is not the final goodbye.
John 14:1-3
Jesus is telling us here that if we’re following him in this life, we can know that there is something even better for us in the next life. During some of our long conversations at the hospital and the nursing home, Richard and I talked about his relationship with Jesus. He admitted to me that he’d gotten more serious about his commitment to Jesus as he’d gotten older. So we can know that Richard hasn’t said his final goodbye.
SONG – In the Garden
I’ve only known Richard for the past few years. I’m told that he’s really mellowed out in later life, partly because of his sickness, partly because of a realization about the importance of relationships. But he still held onto some of his trademark stubbornness. Even in death, when he decided it was time to go, he didn’t waste much time. He had made up his mind, so there was no point in messing around. We’re also meeting in the evening, rather than the daytime, because Richard was adamant in his desire not to put anyone out. “I do not want anyone to miss work because of my funeral.” So I certainly hope none of you are missing work!

I’m sure you’ve taken some time the last few days to reflect upon what Richard’s life has meant to you. The way he cared for you, the things he taught you. It was a long life, filled with a lot of good things. I’ve been told that one of the most important lessons Richard ever taught his family was that you should never wear yellow socks to the zoo. This lesson was learned on a family trip to the zoo that was largely uneventful, until everyone decided to go visit the elephants. The kids were scattered among the elephant cages when they hear this yell. The kids look over and see that ‘dad’ is laying on the ground with an elephant trunk wrapped around his ankle. It took awhile for the zoo keepers to convince the elephant to let Richard go. Turns out that the elephant thought Richard’s yellow socks were peanuts. It wasn’t long after that incident that the zoo put up safety fences between the elephants and the humans.
It was a long good life, with a lot of good memories.

One of the terrible things about living in this screwed-up world is that sometimes a long life means the last few years aren’t so healthy. That was the case with Richard. The last few years were tough, he wasn’t quite the same. But even as rough as it was, the slower pace forced on Richard created more time for family connections. And from my conversations with Richard, it seems he was doing a lot reflecting about what really matters in life.
As I mentioned earlier, Richard talked passionately with me about his commitment to Christ. He shared how he’d begun to take his relationship with God more seriously later in life. I could see in his eyes that he really meant it.
We’re assured in the Bible that because of Richard’s commitment to Christ, the condition in which he ended his earthly life is not the condition he’s in right now. Richard has traded a body that falls apart for a body that will never grow tired. And as Richard stands right now, as we speak, in the very presence of God, he’s traded a faith that is unseen for a faith that’s being confirmed by his brand new eyes.
We’re given this exact promise in two different places in the bible:
1 Peter 1:3-9
1 Corinthians 15:51-58


Important days like this are great times to ask important questions. So I want to ask you some important questions. Are you ready to live your life for Jesus in this life so you’re then ready to spend eternity with Jesus in the next life? Are you willing to turn from a life where you’re in control and to give your life over to Jesus? Are you willing to embrace the life that God has for you, so that when this physical life ends you’ll be prepared for the next life. As we listen to this next song, I encourage you to take some time thinking about those questions. And as a pastor, I’m here to help people keep take steps in their relationship with God. If you’ve got stuff you need to talk about afterwards, just let me know. Feel free to talk to God about them, too. He’s listening.

SONG – Old Rugged Cross


Thank you for being here. Thank you for celebrating Richard’s life. Please go in peace.


russthecynic said...

Hey Donnie, looks like you did a great job providing comfort for the bereaved. I have done so many funerals I have lost count. The thing that matters most when someone dies is your presence. You are God in the flesh to them, and a link to their lost one. Welcome to the club!

You are My Hero,

Donnie Miller said...

I'm my own hero, too.