The Death of a Funeral Director
News travels fast in a small town. It went out over the police scanner that an ambulance had been sent to the local funeral home. That’s not normally a place that EMT’s work to save a life, but that day they were. The funeral director had suffered a heart attack in his chair on a Sunday afternoon, and his life was in danger. He is a church member as well as a good friend, and I got the call while I was in my office. I rushed down to the hospital to be there and get an update, but upon sight of the family it was evident I didn’t need an update. Roger didn’t make it.
I hugged his wife and grieved with his employees, who were there to collect his body. I had the privilege to help them load the funeral director into a car with name on the side. The gravity of the moment was overwhelming. Roger had grown up the son of a funeral director and had spent almost all of his life around death. He himself had stood in countless hospitals and homes around grieving families, not just to provide a service but to comfort them and provide closure. Now it was our turn to do the same for his family.
When you are around death that much, you have to learn to detach yourself. If you don’t then the weight of multiple funerals a week will crush you. It’s something that he and I had talked about multiple times, something that we shared in common to an extent. But at that moment I couldn’t detach myself. Helping to load him into his own car did overwhelm me, reminding me that death stops for no man, even the one who spends his whole life around it.
No matter how familiar Roger was with death, dying, and grieving, he could not avoid it himself. There is no amount of knowledge, no amount of money, no amount of notoriety that can save you from death. He like to call himself the “friendly neighborhood undertaker,” and was well known in our small town, leading many through the grieving process. He had buried many of his own friends, and now his friends did the same for him.
Roger was a good man, well respected in church and in town. But death still came for him. He and I talked about death all the time, doing services together and helping families. But we never talked about his own death. All of us try to avoid the idea of our death as much as we can, even a man who spent his life surrounded by the subject. No matter how much we avoid it, death still comes for all of us. It’s no use not thinking about it, because it will come. Death will only be stopped one day by the one who is greater than death, Jesus Christ. Thankfully for those who are in Christ our deaths are only temporary, as we are then taken to spend eternity with Christ as Roger was.
I challenge you today, spend a few moments thinking about your own death. You’re not going to jinx yourself or anything silly like that. But sit for a moment, a few minutes today, and contemplate the idea that someday your loved ones will gather around your casket, will lower you into the ground, and mourn over you. As those feelings begin to overwhelm you, let them drive you to Christ, to the one who is eternal and gives us everlasting life. Let those thoughts drive you as you live and work and spend time with family this week, drive you to spend time on the things that matter, on the things that last.
Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.