Next Wednesday I will be conducting a funeral for one of the local Baptist lay-preachers. Nothing especially odd about that, except that he was 101 years old and only last year conducted his own wife's funeral!
This man was born the same year as one of my grandmothers, and I have to try to think into her story to try to connect with his.
I am promised a full church (D+1) and a congregation where I'll almost undoubtedly be the youngest by a couple of decades. It is certainly a strange mixture of privilege and challenge, and I am grateful for various press cuttings and copies of family writings to inform the eulogy.
One thing I've learned from this experience is the odd blend of help and hindrance that letters stating requirements for funerals are! This person had left a letter dictating that an early morning private cremation should be followed by an afternoon celebration service - including exact times and venues! It is not possible to meet these exacting requirements (for logistical reasons) and the real pastoral needs of surviving relative who will have travelled considerable distances to attend have to trump what was stated. So, after a fairly traditional service, I will accompany the coffin to the crematorium, freeing the relatives to meet and mingle with those who knew, so much better than they, this old lay preacher. Maybe I'm odd, but whilst my theology says what I'm accompanying is a dead body, my heart won't let me let him go to this last 'appointment' alone - the commendation words will be spoken in church, echoed at the crematorium, and I will, in faith, commit the mortal remains to the elements in 'sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life in Christ our Lord.'
And then, of which I think he'd approve, I will dash off to lunch club to play 'Father Christmas' (mother? elf?) to our wrinklies.