My dad was of the era that measured a person’s worth by the size of his funeral. Uncle Duemore attended funerals religiously because he wanted people to attend his. Apparently, it didn’t occur to my uncle that his friends would be unable to return the favor. Anyway, my dad wanted a nice funeral, and we tried to give him one. It couldn’t be a large funeral because Dad had outlived most of his family and friends. He’d been gone from his home ward for three years, which cut that crowd down, and he had only three living children and eight grandchildren to fill up the descendants’ seats.
Neither my siblings nor I are traditional Mormons, but I knew Dad wanted a Mormon funeral and asked the bishop of his former ward to conduct the service. My brother and I chose to speak and I invited the grandchildren who wanted to participate. My ex-sister-in-law, who is a traditional Mormon, asked who was going to deliver the sermon. I explained that for Utah funerals, the family generally spoke about their loved one rather than having a doctrinal speech by a church official.
But Dad got a sermon. My niece, Brania, filled in for the missing LDS authority on the program and delivered a long, dry sermon on the plan of salvation. Sitting with the other speakers and facing the congregation, I noticed my cousins and Dad’s old neighbors nodding away as they waited for the lighter family stories. My niece, Sootha, did not oblige. She was the only one of the grandchildren to attend BYU and not live with her grandfather. She confessed to not having known Grandpa very well, but loved him and wished she’d gotten to know him better. Okay, my nieces’ talks weren’t great, but my own kids would do better. And Lolly did. She had lived with Dad for the two years she was at BYU and shared warm, touching anecdotes. We should have concluded the service at that point.
But no, our sons took their turns. Techie woke the audience up with his memories of Grandpa—including their farting contests. My cousins smiled as I rolled my eyes—hey, Techie was too old for me to write his talks. Then Wort took the podium. Wort had converted to an evangelical church a couple of years before. He gave examples of his grandfather’s good life and sterling character, then electrified the congregation as he tearfully posited the question of where Grandpa—who lacked the correct belief in the Trinity and a real Christian baptism—was at this moment. My face burned with fury. How could Wort proselytize for his new faith at his grandfather’s funeral? Nobody was asleep now. I doubt anybody present had ever before heard a funeral speaker speculate that the deceased was in Hell.
But something calmed me down—maybe Dad’s spirit was there. The humor of the situation replaced my anger. Not so for Dad’s bishop sitting next to me. I felt him stiffen as Wort spoke. When he arose to give the concluding remarks, he made it clear to Wort and the rest of us that he knew where Dad was—in Paradise—reunited with family members to whom he was sealed.
I hope Dad’s spirit was at his funeral. He’d have loved it—and so would his brothers and friends who preceded him in death. I hope they were allowed to return for a quick chuckle at mortals who think we know so much about life and death .