Yesterday I found myself engaged in a couple of most interesting conversations regarding funerals and the high workload of clergy. The former focused on how the person 'up the front' could make or break a funeral and the latter was located on the large amount of work many priests get through in their daily rounds.
Interestingly, for me at least, there was a very high degree of respect and admiration for those who live out their calling to be engaged in this priesthood business and it was good to hear people from a place not my own talk about encounters and perceptions. To hear of how much of a part clergy play in their communities and how visible they are, even to those who might not be part of the Church, was a great encouragement indeed.
The funeral piece was interesting, for me at least, in that it mentioned the need to be well grounded in who the person being dispatched was and the fact that humour was regarded as perhaps the second most essential element - in a balanced and appropriate way of course - of the whole proceedings.
It is always a challenge to know how to react whilst on a funeral visit and it's not until one walks through that door that the right level is to be found; some being sombre or tearful whilst others are gentle and even lighthearted whilst some are almost riotous and in danger of becoming a full blown party. The being invited into the presence of someone who has lost their partner of sixty plus years and finding a pragmatic and 'doing it the right way approach' can just as easily be a tearful and almost toxic grief experience; for no two people grieve exactly the same - no two families handle their loss in exactly the same way.
'What makes a funeral work is ending on a high and with a birth of a laugh and a smile,' said my companion.
That a funeral is not the end and that there is a resurrection to come - that a person is never a 'was' and is always an 'is' - that Jesus died and rose again - can there be a better high than that?