September 22, 2015


Grief has been studied and dissected by many. Some say there are 7 stages of grief, some professionals suggest there are only 5 stages.

I have worked in health care for over 30 years from hospice care, acute hospital care, skilled nursing facilities and home health. My experience includes hands-on personal care to management. Several years,as a trainer, I instructed SNF administrators, nursing directors, charge nurses and staff about caring for patients and patients' families with compassion and integrity while trying to maintain the patients' dignity as best as could be done. Because of my background I have researched grief thoroughly. It was part of the job as well as important to me to help the sick and their families.

Today, I attended a funeral of a wonderful young woman's grandfather. The second "formal" funeral this year. Earlier this year the friend of my niece was killed in a horrible auto accident.

Each funeral ended up being a commercial for Jesus, as usual. Today's pastor actually invited the attendees to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and to thank the new widow, telling her that the death of her husband of 18 years helped save another soul. To make sure his pitch was heard, he asked the deceased granddaughter to sit in the back so that her baby wouldn't disrupt his pleas for saving souls.

As I was sitting in the pew, listening to the sobs of family members and sniffles of dear friends of the man in the pine box up front and the pastor's sales pitch, the stages of grief shuffled through my mind. Seven stages, five stages, I sorted through them over and over and not once did the words evangelism pop up.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in God. My spiritual life is incredibly important to me and I might add, I believe it is rich in meaning and intimacy.  I am not dissing a belief in Jesus, or God. I am just disturbed that almost every funeral I've attended in the last 20 years seems to be about evangelism, not about the person laying in the casket or poured into an urn. Not about the family and friends bereft in their loss.

The hair on my neck raises and my my jaw aches as I imagine that the pastors of our churches get those calls from families or funeral directors that someone has just died and they jump for joy. Do these "men of God" sing, "Yay! Just got another gig. I get to sell God to a room full of aching and vulnerable people.! Thank you, Jesus!"

I came away from the funeral home planning my own funeral. There will be no preaching to come to Jesus. Amazing Grace will not be sung even if Paul McCartney or Sarah McLachlin offers their services. If my surviving family chooses to say a prayer it should start with Dearest God and end with "in Jesus's name we pray."  None of this "and Lord" and "and Jesus" and 'and Lord" and 'and Jesus we just ask" filled throughout the prayer. It sounds like a shifty used car salesman (to me) when a prayer is filled repeating names. Kind of like, "Toni, you will love this car, Toni, and Toni, I can get you a good loan, Toni, great terms, Toni and Toni, no down payment. Toni, this car is calling your name, Toni, Toni, Toni....can you hear it?"

I swear, I will come back to life and slap you....hard! Do not do that at my funeral. You can believe me, I will not be disappointed if no one is "saved" during the celebration of my full life. Remember, I'll be dead....I won't have anything left to put notches on to keep count anyway!

Tell people about the joy in my life. Tell them about the day my sister and I drew circles on our boss's binoculars so that after she spied on all the working staff she had racoon eyes the rest of the morning. Tell people how my kids and I would sing and dance when they were little. Play my favorite songs. Poems, Prayers and Promises and Let It Be by John Denver. Digame by Anna Nalick, Con te Partiro by Andrea Bocelli, Priscilla Ahn's song "Dream    Don't forget Natalie Merchant's Where I Go and Theme from Tootsie!  Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison and It's a Beautiful Morning by the Rascals, a song I wouldn't get out of bed before school in my senior year until it came on my little radio. Got to have Sarah McLachlin's Arms of an Angel!

Now, I know a couple of you religious-types are going to be worried about my soul if we don't sing about me being a wretch who was lost and now I'm found.  Get over it!

I will allow (without serious repercussions from the "other side") a favorite song from church, On Eagles Wings by Michael Joncos...just no preaching. No talking about sinning and repentence. No scary shit about sign up now or burn in hell forever.  And if any minister tells you I wanted you to be 'saved,' point your no-no bad boy finger and tell him he must have taken a wrong turn along the way because he is not at a funeral but a celebration of life.

In fact, most of you know that I don't want a funeral in a church or a stuffy funeral home. Cremate my body; if I'm not hanging around in this body anymore than I want my carbon foot print to be minimal. If you can't think of what to do with the ashes, toss them into a forest...( I prefer pine and aspen but do as you will). Have my services at Brandy Creek or Whiskey Creek (though if you find a Gin and Tonic creek or Hornitos Creek with a good beach, that might be more appropriate. BBQ, swim, tell jokes and remember how much I enjoyed my life. Encourage the everyone to walk up the creek jumping from rock to rock. Remind my kids how much I love them, not just love them, I am in-love with them. Remind my grandchildren and great granddaughter that I am also in-love with them. Family and Friends, you are a blessing in my life.

I'm trusting you all. Don't let some Pastor sneak in any evangelism.....I mean it!


  1. I have attended a Greek funeral recently and I was appalled. The way the priests were asking for vast amounts of money to provide their services and their whole clinical approach, only to do and say things nobody understands due to their singing and old language. To most of them it is a business. I have met some wonderful spiritual people mostly monks, but I have had so many bad experiences with the Greek church. Once a priest when I was around 15 kept rubbing my knee and thigh. Being young and stupid I thought it was innocent. Later, I found out I was not special. He had done similar things and even worse to women of all age. I am not a Christian any more, but even when I was, I found all those things disturbing!

    1. It is crazy how many organized religions build fences between people instead of bridges, keeping us divided instead of bringing humanity together. Any time a person of authority uses that power to abuse or take advantage of an innocent it is despicable. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

  2. I just remembered I once met a very nice nun too! So, comforting, so sweet!

    1. I've known many nuns throughout the years. The majority were very nurturing and loving.

  3. Oh, I am with you, big time. The absolutely worst funerals are the religious ones. It's like they completely ignore the dearly departed and any celebration of their life.

    1. Exactly. If we weren't in attendance to support the families, I would have walked out. Sometimes, though, the disrespect for deceased and family is so blatant that I am almost paralyzed with astonishment!


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