I have a distant memory of elementary school summer reading contests. I read of lot of books in the summer back then, and some things never change.
The book I just started was recommended last Sunday after my “Agape Love” sermon. It is Love Does by Bill Goff. You recommend some great books, and this one I can see already will be no exception.
Today I want to share just one story from another excellent book one of you recommended. This one has a title that will either intrigue or repel: Confessions of a Funeral Director by Caleb Wilde.
Sam McKinney’s life had been cut short by cancer. (Sam is short for Samantha.) She was a prominent, respected, beloved member of the community. And everyone knew she was gay.
The funeral director who wrote this book serves a small community in rural Pennsylvania. They were becoming more accepting and welcoming of their LGBTQ friends and neighbors, but they were still quite traditional in their views. Sam’s church, in particular. She considered it her church, though her sexual orientation kept her from becoming a member. And, understandably, she didn’t attend that church very often.
So it was quite the surprise when Sam’s parents announced to the funeral director that it was her wish to have her funeral in that church. “Why?” he asked. “Why would Sam want to have her funeral in a church that rejected her?”
Her mother answered: “Sam loved God, and she always wanted God’s people to embrace her. What she couldn’t have in life, she’ll receive in her death.”
The question now was, who will ask the pastor? The funeral director volunteered, and Sam’s parents didn’t argue.
It was not a phone call he was looking forward to. Frankly, he was expecting that he would be told “no” in no uncertain terms. He rehearsed in his mind how he might exert his powers of persuasion, but had concluded it would probably be no use.
“Hi, is this Pastor Jackson?” I asked.
“Yes”, the pastor replied.
“I’m meeting with the McKinney family,” I paused. “I’m sure you’re aware that Sam died last night.”
Her voice cracked as she said, “Yes.”
“In talking with the family, they were wondering if Sam’s funeral could . . . ” At that point Pastor Jackson cut me off.
“Be at the church,” she finished my sentence and continued: “I’ve been visiting with Sam these past couple weeks, offering her communion and encouragement. She told me everything she wanted. Her funeral belongs in her church.”
It was a beautiful service. It was an eclectic congregation. Sam’s family, of course (including some who didn’t approve of Sam’s “lifestyle”), Sam’s LGBTQ community, and Sam’s church family, many of whom had serious reservations about homosexuality.
But that day Sam brought us all together in unity and love. And together, the entire group of us brought Sam to her final resting place as a unified whole, united by life, united by death, worshiping as one.