Sunday, August 14, 2011

Collaborating With Elvis

I watched the Republicans go at it in their pre-straw poll debate last Thursday. The poll, which means nothing in terms of votes or delegates, is mainly the Iowa Republican method of shaking down the candidates by charging $30 a head while suggesting strongly that all the candidates show up. There will be plenty of other debates, but none will include Tim Pawlenty, gone from the campaign already. That's almost not long enough to be considered a "journalist" by FOX News.
I could go on about the debate, but let's just leave it at this: a moderate has about as much chance of being the next Republican nominee as a vegetarian campaigning to be elected King of the Vampires.

A combination of work obligations and vacations resulted in my being in an unaccustomed spot last week - the local congregation's "go to" guy. It meant I was first in a very short line to run the funeral of a ninety-one year old woman who I didn't know, dealing with her family, none of whom I had met and preparing for an event the size of which I had no clue.
So I tried to make sure that my little sermon was ready, and not too long. I went to the funeral home an hour before things were scheduled to start, hoping for no surprises. The family began to dribble in - no one over seventy, but with children and grandchildren of their own. I met with a daughter (the family's "go to" gal), and began to be surprised. No one had thought of a eulogy, nor was anyone willing to try it on the fly. OK. Well, let's collect some facts in order to put this life into some kind of context. Putting on one more hat could be managed. The dedication of the grave (an LDS ordinance)? That would also be - me.
The time came, and I observed a total of 40-50 people. They seemed nice enough, but when did people stop dressing up for funerals? Were they all afraid that they'd have to speak if they had a tie on? Mine was the only one except for the funeral director's, and he was as calm as a banker doing a foreclosure. Everyday meat and potatoes.
The sister I had planned to call on to give the invocation hadn't yet arrived, but I stood up and began. Why was the pulpit too little? Where could I put my scriptures without fearing they'd fall?
I called on another sister, our bishop's wife toting a two week-old baby, the latest of nine, to give the prayer, and she did. The one I had asked came in about three minutes too late. I pieced together the eulogy, realizing only afterward that either my facts were off or the deceased woman had married at age 11. No one complained.
I opened the floor to anyone who wished to make an expression or relate a memory. Precious few did, and we pressed forward. Only others could judge the quality of my sermon, though it seemed less impressive to me than it did when I practiced it.
We had a closing prayer less than half an hour after beginning, after which the director dismissed the group starting from the back rows to give them an up close look at his profession's handiwork. I kept a respectful distance.
The formal events of the day ended when we went to the other side of town to dedicate the grave. The printed program referred to me as an "officiate". Does that sound like a guy in a striped shirt with a whistle? I hope not.
But what about Elvis? Well, he did his bit by providing all the pre- and post-ceremony music, backed up by the Jordanaires and an ensemble of white Gospel players. I can't say he stole the show, but I have no problem saying it's great working with the King. Thankyeew.


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