Unbelievable Expectation-A Story You Will Find Hard To Believe


I was writing in my journal tonight: just jotting down some notes about the last couple of days. I have had back to back Celebration Of Life Services which is my term for funerals. I’ve been using this substitute for more than 20 years and it is catching on. I got to thinking about how gracious some families are and how entitled others feel and that sit me to thinking about some funerals I have officiated in the past. One happened about a decade ago. June and I came home from church on Sunday evening, we had lunch with the kids and grandkids which is our custom and then when the kids leave, June and I usually relax a little in the den, maybe watch a movie or something. It is around 3:00 pm that evening that I get a call. I did not recognize the woman’s voice but she told me who she was: her son had been attending our youth meetings and our Youth Director at the time had given this woman a car. Her mother had passed away and she ask if I would conduct the COLS. I said reluctantly, “I will do my best but you need to meet with me prior to the service and give me some information about your mother because I didn’t know her.” She agreed and then hung up or I may have hung up on her. They tell me I have horrible phone manners. Anyway, she calls back in less than five minutes and says, “By the way, I forgot to ask, would you also pay for the funeral?” I had around 30 years experience at the time but I had never had that question presented to me before and I did not know how to respond. I imagine there was a moment of silence as I tried to compose myself. I said, “Ma’am, what makes you think I have the money to pay for a funeral?” She said, “You pastor a big church, don’t they have the money.” I said, “First of all, the church is not that big and secondly, I cannot spend their money. To do what you’re asking, I would have to go to the church and have it put to a vote and that takes time.” She gave me a sob story and I had a little money saved from a revival or something so I promised to look into it and get back with her, so she gave me her number. I called the Director of the Funeral Home who is a friend and I told him about my problem. He said, “They just left my office, I gave them the price for an indigent family and they rejected it.” The price was $2,200.00 but they would have no part of it, they wanted a $6,000.00 service. I was a little heated and so I called her back and ask her if this was true and she confessed that it was. “Ma’am, you don’t have any money; you don’t have $6,000.00 and I am not going to make any effort to help you unless you agree to the price he offered you.” We went back and forth for a few minutes and she finally agreed but told me that her brother was not going to like it. I said, “Put your brother on the phone.” “Oh, he is not here now but he will never agree to this,” she said. I said, “He will either agree or come up with $4,000.00.” “Oh“, she said, “He doesn’t have any money.” “Well, that means he has no opinion as far as I am concerned.” So reluctantly, I will not be rewarded for this because I did it begrudgingly, I agreed to see what I could do so I called the director back who was as tired of getting Sunday evening phone calls as I was: I said, “We are going to take the $2,200 service, so go ahead and book it. I have $1,100 that I will bring by tomorrow and if you will trust me for the other $1,100 which I will probably have to ask the church for but one way or the other I will assume responsibility.” He said, “Bro. Jack, there is a chance that it will be a little less: by law, we get what is left in her SS account and it is to be applied to the service. It will not be $1,100 but it could be half that amount but I am relatively sure your balance will not be $1,100.” So we worked out the details and then I call the woman back expecting her to be elated about what I have done out of the kindness of my heart. She was not happy. “My brother is not going to like this,” she said. I said, “Well you tell you brother to work things out because this is all I’m going to do.” She said, “Oh no, we are going to take it but we don’t like it.” OK, so we agree and I hang up, end of conversation right? Wrong! She called back in less than ten minutes, “We have to have $300 for the burial plot and the digging of the grave.” I said, “Madam, I have done all that I’m going to do. You tell your brother to get the plot. If he does not, the deal is off.” “I’ll tell him” she said, “but he is not going to like it.”

I did go by the next day and give the funeral home an $1,100.00 check that I had gotten for something. The director and I worked out all the details. It was to be a grave side with no procession. We were to meet at the Cemetery in a neighboring county. I show up and there is a small company of people, not more than 25. We had the service and the guys were closing the grave when a nice looking woman approached. She said, I am a daughter and I understand that my sister ask you to pay for the service. I said, “Yes ma’am she did.” She said, “I am embarrassed but not shocked. I moved to Texas years ago and have been there since. My mother was a good woman and she did not live the way my sister and brother live. I want to thank you for what you have done and I want to help,” and then she handed me a check. When I got in the car and looked at the check, it was for $100. I thought, wow, this group must have been crazy about their mother but at least the sister did thank me and that was worth something. The next week I boarded a plane for Atlanta and sat down by a rich businessman and before the flight was over he wrote me a check for $1,000.00 [just kidding]. It would make a great preacher story wouldn’t it but I did not get my $1,100 back not did I get a thank you card. When I went by the funeral home to pay the balance, the director smiled and said, “Bro. Jack, you don’t owe us a penny, she had over $600 in her SS account and we are going to absorb the rest. We are not going to take another dime from you.” I thanked him and then said, “Please don’t let the word get out that I pay for funerals.” He said, “Bro. Jack, I understand, it is top-secret.”


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