Eulogies and Processions

by admin on November 1, 2011

I was just recently admitted into Airmen Leadership School in the Air Force. (It’s required of all future Sergeants to attend.)  During the few weeks of this school, we were to attend the funeral of a local Vietnam Veteran to show the base support for the grieving families.  My class all arrived in our full service dress and shown to our pews.  The base commander and several other high ranking officials also arrived and sat in the pew in front of our small section by the church door.

After the priest finished the readings on the schedule, our base commander got up to say a few words in memory of the Veteran.  We all thought he would say something regarding his honorable service…mentioning any awards or decorations he received, or something along those lines.  Apparently, he decided to talk only about his service in Vietnam…to include that when people were searching through the mass of bodies for survivors…that the only reason he was found to be “alive” was when someone heard a bloody “gurgle” escape his throat.  (Because what mourning family member wants to think about that?)   My class thought that another member of the family would get up and say a few words in regards to the man being a husband, father and grandfather and salvage the ceremony…but no, our commander talking about “bloody gurgles” was the only person to get up and speak at the funeral to a large mass of mourning family members.

To top it off, as the procession is starting and the casket is being brought down to leave the church, our high ranking front pew members leave the church through the front door before the casket.  And as with all protocol…we are supposed to follow suit.  We tried to get the person in the front of our pew to stay so the casket and family could leave first, but they didn’t.  So row after row of bewildered and embarrassed Airmen left out of the church service in front of the deceased and their family.  Apparently the commander had a pressing appointment or something, but that’s no reason to be completely disrespectful.  I don’t even know how anything could have been done to amend the situation.  0711-11

I attended a funeral this summer of a friend and listened with astonishment as the daughter of the deceased used the eulogy to talk about herself with very little mention of her mother.  She spoke of how the cancer diagnosis devastated her (and how did you think your mom handled it?), how she served her mom (Hmm…you wouldn’t come to the hospice center when told your mom’s death was imminent), and pretty much she was the good daughter (clearly a slap at the other siblings).  The most self-centered eulogy I’ve ever heard.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Gabriele November 1, 2011 at 5:18 am

I was married and living in a rural area, my husband drove school bus so he got to know a lot of the kids and was like an uncle to some of them. A young man (now out of school at the time) was not just one of the ‘kids’ but we also knew his mother and had helped her when she divorced the father.
She remarried and moved from the area. The young man stayed in touch with his father (somewhat) and one night, his father got him drunk (he was used to beer, his father gave his hard liquor) and then let him drive home (over 30 miles on a winding two lane mountain road) under the influence.
He didn’t make it home.
He had so many friends, the local chapel which his mother selected for the service was full and then some. The local minister (ordained but not affiliated with any group) had been a presence in the community for 30 years so I could understand her choice.
Instead of speaking of what the young man had accomplished he chose not to offer any consolation to anyone by saying anything mitigating but instead said he was quite sure God was as angry as he (the minister) was that this life was wasted.
He went on to talk about his many years of serving the community and all those that he had seen stumble and fall, as this young man had fallen (nothing about grace or forgiveness or compassion) and that the young man had to be held to some account because if he had availed himself of what was offered at that church he might not be lying in that coffin, dead.
I wanted to walk up to the minister and beat the holy ____ out of him. Whatever claim he had to being a ‘servant of the lord’ went out the door with that self-serving diatribe he visited on everyone who came to mourn and celebrate the life of the young man.
I could tell, when we left the church, that all of his (the young man) friends felt the same way.
The mother was devastated, the fathre didn’t show up (his excuse: the boy should have learned to hold his liquor better).
I haven’t been to a funeral since. I do love requiem masses (the choral works, especially the Faure one) but when people are allowed to bring their own agenda to what should be a time for healing, well, I prefer to remember people in private–or get together with friends to remember the person.
When a new minister came to take over the church (the old fart retired) he asked why there wasn’t a youth group. He was told why and when he asked people to forgive and understand an aging man’s views, well, there wasn’t a youth or young adults group for the next 8 years that I lived there.

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LeeLee88 November 1, 2011 at 7:32 am

Oy… I’m reminded of another military gaffe I saw at a Marine Corps ball that had even me, just a civilian, thinking, “Oh my word…!!”

I want to hope that someone said something to the commander later on, but sadly, I’m sure that’s just a fantasy that will only exist in my head.

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PrincessSim November 1, 2011 at 7:51 am

Funeral etiquette and wedding etiquette need to be subjects in high school. Some people need to learn how to behave appropriately. The only explanation I can think for that girl’s behaviour is: sometimes people who are grieving are not in the right state of mind, and this is when true colours come out. With regards to the story, the officers should have stayed. Sometimes, you need to be a few minutes late to observe proper protocol and just plain be POLITE in some situations.

Eulogy: a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person. Key: IN HONOUR OF. And it’s NOT in honour of yourself.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. It brought us together, as friends, and as a mother and daughter. We sit for hours playing UNO, cards, dominos, reading, telling jokes, etc. These are all things that should be included in a eulogy – fond memories, achievements. My mother is a lovely person, a great cook, and incredibly smart. I’m very lucky she is still here. I’m not going to tell everyone I’m a wonderful daughter – I’m not. But, God forbid, if I was called on to write a eulogy for her tomorrow, I’d tell everyone about her wonderful meals, her patience, her sense of humour, and how much she hates it when I take out my piercings and show them to her. Her love of her dogs, her partner, re-arranging her life for my step-siblings and my little brother, and her door always being open to her friends and family. See definition of Eulogy above.

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AS November 1, 2011 at 8:25 am

Didn’t the base commander end up with disciplinary action taken against him? I am not too sure of the military rules, but I’d think that respecting a fallen soldier is not just etiquette but also a rule/law.

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Enna November 1, 2011 at 8:32 am

That was very unprofessional of the commander: how distressing for the family and disappointing too.

@ Gabriele: that priest was appalling: it would be one thing to try and educate youth about the dangers of drink driving but doing it in this was doesn’t help matters. As for the father what a nasty man: shows how little he cares about his own child what kind of father was he? A useless one. As for the new priest asking people to “forgive and understand the man’s views” – it’s pretty hard to do that with someone who was so condemming and unforgiving.

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SciFiLeslie November 1, 2011 at 8:56 am

I think people deal with death in many different ways. Some people handle it better than others…but I think it is unfair to map our own reactions to others and expect them to handle matters in the same fashion.

When my mom passed at home (10 years ago after a brief battle with cancer) while she was literally in her death throes my dad decided it would be a good time to go shave while the hospice nurse and I attended my mom. Took me some time to get over that…but I eventually realized that was how my dad was coping with loosing his wife of 30 years.

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Javin November 1, 2011 at 9:46 am

At my grandmother’s funeral, we had a similar incident. My cousin, who is well known for always having to be the center of attention, jumped up in the middle of the minister’s eulogy (that was written by my aunts and uncles) and began screaming about how the priest “didn’t know her!”

She made a huge scene, including going to the podium and pushing the priest aside, then reading from her pre-scripted rant that she had written on the palm of her hand. Everyone in the family was mortified. When she got to the point that she was supposed to turn on the waterworks, turned out she wasn’t as good an actress as she thought, and she couldn’t muster the tears.

I can’t even say that she was “just grieving in her own way.” We lived in Oklahoma and spent a good deal of time with my grandmother. I used to read her bed-time stories (I was 8, and she loved to hear me read) as she went to bed. She taught me how to cook, and we were incredibly close. I would go and stay with her for weeks at a time. My cousin lived in California and saw her once MAYBE every two years if we had a family reunion/Christmas.

Long story short, I haven’t seen that cousin since my grandmother’s passing. That was 15 years ago.

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Nadine November 1, 2011 at 9:51 am

This surprises me, as usually the military is steeped in tradition and protocol.

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Margo November 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

I, too, hope someone said something to the commander later on. Do you have a chaplain or someone of that kind on the base who you and your class mates could speak to, and who might be able to give some general advice to the senior staff about appropriate protocol for funerals?

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KMC November 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

One of the speakers (a sort of clergyman) at my grandfather’s funeral used his opportunity to talk about what a disappointment my father was to his mother (my grandmother), because he never did convert to their religion, like his two brothers.

What this had to do with my grandfather, I can’t imagine – he had never converted either.

My dad tried to catch up with the man after the funeral to have a few words, but he hurried to his car when he saw my dad walking in his direction.

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Laurita November 1, 2011 at 10:40 am

Even considering how bad most self-centered eulogies are, this one is way over the top.

This is timely as I just returned from my Uncle’s funeral. We were worried about the funeral service as the parish priest is new and did not know my uncle or the family. He acknowledged this at the funeral but still gave one of the lovliest eulogies I have ever heard, simply by listening to what the family said about my uncle during the wake. There’s something to be learned there.

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many bells down November 1, 2011 at 10:50 am

@Gabriele – That’s horrible and unfortunately all too common.

My husband’s cousin, his best friend growing up, tried to kill himself by setting fire to his mother’s house. He was arrested and then hung himself in the jail cell. The family was Mormon, and the funeral was a long list of reasons “Joe” was a horrible person for leaving the church and if he hadn’t he would never have come to this horrible pass. Then the mourners were lectured on their commitment to the church, and if they’d fallen by the wayside they’d better get back into the fold or bad things would happen to them too.

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Pam B November 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

wow. It’s so sad when something that should be a healing time turns into more pain. At my grandmother’s funeral her half-sister was very upset that she had not been asked to sing and had some nasty comments about the music. She had expressed this to my uncle but he graciously kept it to himself until after the funeral. When my grandfather passed away no one “remembered” to call…. If a person is coming to a funeral to be the center of attention, they shouldn’t be there at all.

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Wink-n-Smile November 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

Gabriele – I’m horrified by that story! Even the boy’s own father? I’m so sorry for that young man’s mother’s loss.

LeeLee88 – Oh, please, you can’t set us up like that and not tell the story. Come on, now. Spill!

As for the OP – I’m so sorry you were forced to be disrespectful. That CO should have been called on the carpet for that.

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Twik November 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

There are some people who just do not get that “it’s not all about them”.

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ciotog November 1, 2011 at 11:21 am

At my aunt’s funeral we were treated to a diatribe about “militant atheists who read the New York Times” from the priest. It was also implied that she might not get into heaven and that we probably wouldn’t get there ourselves–which is antithetical to what my aunt believed, but her son’s beliefs took precedence over hers.

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Mary November 1, 2011 at 11:35 am

It’s amazing how different eulogies can be. I’ve seen both extremes and some of these stories are horrible.
I do remember my grandma’s funeral. The young priest had never met her, but asked my mom and my aunt quite a few questions when planning the Mass. It was one of the most wonderful eulogies I’ve heard and the priest spoke of my Grandma as if he had known her for decades.

It’s scary how some people should not be in a religious vocation!

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LeeLee88 November 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

Haha, all right, Wink-n-Smile, here it is, in brief.

There’s a part during the ceremony where a “birthday cake” for the Marine Corps is cut, and the first piece is giving to the highest ranking officer in attendance; in this case, a Colonel. Well, the procession with the cake is made, the ceremonial saber is used to cut the cake, and the young man cutting the cake (I don’t know his rank) very UNceremoniously dumps the cut piece of cake directly into the Colonel’s white-gloved hands. No plate, which was right there, for Pete’s sake, he just tipped it into the Colonel’s hands. Even I, only somewhat knowledgeable as to specific Marine Corps etiquette at that point, was appalled. I thought my date was going to pass out :-P.

The Colonel was a pillar of class though, and simply picked up the china dish the slice of cake was meant to be on, placed it there himself, and finished that part of the ceremony without batting an eyelash. I don’t know what was said to the young man, but I know that my date and a friend of ours (who both outranked the young man who made the gaffe) went and had a word with him near the bar later on.

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Ashley November 1, 2011 at 11:40 am

This reminds me of a friend of mine who somehow ALWAYS seems to think it is perfectly okay to tell sad/gross stories from her job (she works at a hospital). No matter what we were discussing before hand she always has a habit of saying “Guys, I have a sad story from work” and then she totally brings down whatever the mood is. My point is that this isn’t just a funeral/wedding issue, this happens in every day situations as well. Yes, funerals/weddings are probably worse situations for it to happen, but I just can’t understand how people can have a story in their head and not realize it ISN’T appropriate for the situation they are in.

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lkb November 1, 2011 at 11:47 am

As a “believer”, I apologize to all of you who were offended and were driven away from a religious faith because of all-too-human priests, ministers and/or those of us in the pews.

Christianity (or any religious faith as far as I know) is a “hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.” Please forgive us when we fail you.

My deepest condolences to all here who have suffered a loss of any kind.

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Hemi Halliwell November 1, 2011 at 12:03 pm

How horrible that the CO would share a horrific story and then disrespect the entire family by leaving ahead of the casket and family!!
Two quick stories of my own: The priest at my grandmother’s funeral started with a euology but ended up giving a sermon about “loose” women but he actually used the “w” word. That had nothing to do with my grandmother- she was not by any means a “loose” woman. The entire family just sat there in shock.
At my ex-BIL mother’s wake/visitation, her family showed up late, the women & girls were dressed in cut-off “daisy duke” jean shorts ( I’m not the fashion police but c’mon-it was their mother/ grandmother’s funeral!) and sat in the kitchen area eating most of the night. There was a relative with a prosthetic leg and he went out to the entrance area, took it off and let children “walk” it around the front lawn. Extremely bizarre.

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Margaret November 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

A friend of mine attended a funeral for a young father who had died falling off of a roof. She told me that instead of offering comfort, the minister said it was all the deceased’s fault for having an accident.

At a wedding I went to, the maid of honour, who was the bride’s sister, did the toast to the bride, and the only mention of the bride was when the MOH blamed the bride for breaking her (MOH’s) leg when they were little.

Some people are just awful.

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Cat November 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Funerals bring out the best and the worse in people. My Dad was very ill and my older brother was going on a month’s holiday to go big game hunting out west. I asked him what he wanted me to do if Dad died in the month he was away. He said, and I quote, “Have the funeral! I’m not giving up a day of my vacation for any funeral.” I said, “You may feel differently if it actually happens. Do you want to call me once a week so I can keep you updated?” He said, and again I quote, “I am not wasting my money on long distance!” This is years before cell phones or email came about.
Dad died on Father’s Day, two weeks into bro’s vacation. He didn’t call. I held Dad’s body, over his extended family’s ire, for eight days to see if brother would callto give him a second chance to come home for the funeral. He never did. Bro. found out on the way home from his vacation when he stopped to visit his wife’s relations. He was supposed to pay for Dad’s funeral as Dad had put his name on all Dad’s bank accounts for that very reason. He refused to pay so I had to.
Now he tells everyone that “I didn’t allow him to attend Dad’s funeral.”

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Jojo November 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm

My family’s behaviour at funerals has been beyond inconsiderate and selfish on too many occasions to mention. But to attend the funeral of a young soldier you barely knew and then throw protocol that you know all too well out of the window is massively disrespectful. Not just to the deceased and his family but to the serving men and women present who will always have in mind that if they were to have a military funeral, it wouldn’t be about their achievements or do anything to help their family grieve. It leaves a bitter taste.
To Gabriele, that poor mother is in my thoughts, I hope she managed to find some peace in her heart and a suitable way to memorialize her son’s life.
I’ve been to a number of Humanist funeral ceremonies and the minister has always spent time with the family listening to their memories of the person before delivering a speech celebrating their life – it’s a beautiful way to remember someone and I hope that when I pass I will have such a simple, dignified ceremony ( I just have to outlive the rest of my kin first!).

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Goldie November 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Thank you, lkb, your kind words are much appreciated.

I have a priest story too. Last year, unfortunately, I had to go to two funerals, one of a 47-year-old and the other one of a 19-year-old. Needless to say, both were incredibly sad and shocking occasions for all of us present. Same priest spoke at both funerals. He’d start off by talking about the deceased — he would read off his notes and at times he’d get the names and the facts wrong, but that is understandable. Then he’d quickly get to the worst part, the evangelizing, which was the majority of his speech. It is important to say that, due to the specific ethnic/cultural group where both ceremonies took place, on both occasions, the funeral home was packed with atheists and agnostics. Everyone, however, respected the ceremony and participated as best they could, out of respect for the deceased and their families.

With my 47yo friend, the priest said that if death could have happened to a man in his prime that our friend was, then it could happen to any of us at any minute, and that, if we didn’t believe, practice, and go to church, we’d end up in a bad place after we were dead. So, he told us, we’d better clean up our act now.

With the 19yo daughter/granddaughter of my family’s friends, he was even worse. His whole speech was built around how her death was all part of a divine plan, how it had to happen, and what various good would come out of it. The main benefit being that all young men and women present would convert and join the church immediately after seeing what had happened to their friend and classmate. He wouldn’t stop talking about how her death basically a good thing.

I researched secular funeral ceremonies as soon as I came home, and I will definitely make sure that my family members and I each get one when our time comes, unless they specify otherwise. So far, none of my family members (my parents were at one of these funerals with me) expressed the desire to have this priest speak at their ceremonies. Personally, both his speeches struck me as incredibly cynical and disrespectful to the deceased and their families. There is a time and a place to recruit people to your faith and your church, and a funeral is most definitely not it. Though, as I’ve seen on this thread, it could have been a lot worse! I cannot believe the minister from Gabriele’s comment! How awful, and how horrible that this boy’s family and friends had to go through that!

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Chocobo November 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I’m cringing in my seat, and I was not even there! A friend of mine in the military will say as much as anyone that despite having to go through decorum training, manners are not always as prevalent as one might think, and protocol is not always as closely followed as basic training makes it seem. I feel for the poor cadets here, their compromising position of being knowingly rude, but having to follow suit anyway.

I agree with PrincessSim, I wish that such things were taught in high school, not just in the private ones. It’s not just for the benefit of the affected victims, but for the perpetrators themselves — imagine reflecting back on your unknowingly bad behavior at a wedding or funeral and feeling so mortified at the major faux pas!

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spartiechic November 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I was very close to my grandfather, who was more of a father to me than my own father. When he died (my first experience with death came in my late 20s), I was understandably upset. My aunt and father are notorious for thinking of themselves. Imagine my surprise when all three of my cousins, my aunt, and my father all got up to speak about my grandfather from prepared speeches. Apparently, everyone forgot to tell me that they were going to do that. Granted, they were actually very lovely speeches, but, when the funeral director looked rather pointedly at me and asked if anyone else had something to say, I was crying too hard to say anything. I may have been able to give a speech, but I didn’t have anything prepared. People were looking at me as if I did something wrong by not having something to say and I got asked why I didn’t have a nice speech prepared and why I didn’t get up and say something. It just added more stress on a rather stressful day to my grandmother, who thought someone had told me. She felt bad that I wasn’t told.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson November 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Dear lkb — What a lovely comment! If more people viewed their churches as you do there’d be a lot less misery in the world.

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airlinepass November 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

It’s a shame when people unintentionally or are aware but don’t care that their boorish or rude behavior at these solemn occasions deflect the true purpose of funerals and memorial ceremonies: to fondly remember the departed and provide comfort to his/her loved ones.

And thank you OP for your service to our nation. I appreciate it.

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Raven November 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Funerals bring out the worst in people – sad, but true. It’s not the time to mock the deceased or the family, it’s not the time to try to convert grieving people to your religion, and it’s not the time to talk about yourself. Behave yourself, or get out.

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Angela November 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I posted a story here several years ago about my grandmother’s funeral. I do a lot of public speaking and as the minister didn’t know my grandmother, I wanted to say some words about her and knew I could do a decent job. I spoke for a few minutes about special memories of her and how much she did for me and other people, and how her relationship with my (already deceased) grandfather was a great example for the rest of us. Then the minister worked a lot of my comments in the funeral service, but in a negative way! “She and my grandfather never fought” became “I guarantee they fought. All married couples fought”. “She took me for ice cream and said that I could have anything I wanted and I felt like a princess” became “I bet she never told her daughter (who was there) that she could have anything she wanted at the ice cream place”. I have no idea why he would do this but the memory still upsets me.

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Jade November 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm

My grandmothers funeral springs to mind, we should have known her priest was going to be an issue when he arrived unannounced at the hospital and tried to force his way into her room while she was surrounded by grieving family, but he had been her parish priest for many years and we knew she would have wanted her funeral held in the church she had attended and the ceremony conducted by him.

He started off by insisting that his wife was the only person allowed to play music in his church, fair enough, some churches don’t allow non-secular music, we’ll let that go. Then only her eldest son was to be allowed to give a eulogy at her funeral. We simply shortened his speech to half of the alloted ten minutes and gave my father the other half. Then he got up and made his (lengthy) eulogy. Now bear in mind that this priest had known my grandmother personally for over ten years, she was a stalwart of the church, a Sunday school teacher, backbone of any bake sale, arranged the flowers for services every weekend. Did he mention any of this? No. The only thing he could think of to say about her in his entire, fifteen minute, diatribe, was that she made nice ribbon sandwiches. The rest of the time he enjoyed thoroughly having a captive audience of unbelievers (the rest of the family were either not particularly religious or belonged to another faith) and made many references to how we were all going to hell basically.

He then finished with a flourish by refusing to mention (as requested by the family) that there was a wake at my parents home and we exited the church to the wailing sounds of a much abused hammond organ…

When my grandfather died a few years later an uncle suggested we hold the funeral in the same church. He was met with a resounding, family wide, NO!

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Vanessa November 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Thinking of ministers giving wildly inappropriate sermons/lectures during religious events made me flash back to a wedding I went to awhile back.

The bride was a former coworker & the service was going along smoothly until the priest decided to use the sermon portion of the ceremony to start lecturing on the evils of drink & how over-using liquor in one’s life can destroy even the best of marriages.

I sat there stunned. To my knowledge neither the bride nor the groom had alcohol problems. It was as though the priest started out with one idea in mind & then started ‘winging it’ & ended up going off on the wildly inappropriate tangent for what seemed like FOREVER.

Fortunately, the bride & groom didn’t let it affect & they’re still married with a couple of small kids.

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Ginger November 2, 2011 at 6:37 am

This is the OP, re-reading how the incident is typed it could also lead people to believe the commander was talking about himself. (He was WAY too young to have ever served in that time.) He was describing to the family present at the funeral how their departed loved one had been laying in a field strewn with a mass of other bodies severly injured and near death while serving in Vietnam. Even though I didn’t even know the man, it was a hard image to get out of my head. I kept imagining the deceased in his casket “gurgling”. I don’t even want to know what was thought by the family members, especially the grandchildren.

I think at the time we were leaving the church, the priest may have thought we were going to line up outside the door and salute the coffin as it began it’s procession to the graveyard. That sadly was not the case, we were all told to get back on our bus to return to base. I can only hope his family had another memorial possibly later on that day. People have multiple weddings, but you really only get one funeral. No matter how descriptive the commander was, it was still an honor to attend this mans’ funeral.

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grumpy_otter November 2, 2011 at 9:09 am

I feel so sad about these horror stories, I’d like to write about a great funeral. My brother died suddenly of a heart attack at age 33 when I was 26. Obviously, the family were all devastated and in shock. My brother was a nurse at a local hospital and also had volunteered for the rescue squad for many years, so had many ties in the community. (He had the heart attack while at work in the hospital, so was in the care of doctors, his friends, in seconds–this was comforting to us as we know everything that could have been done was done immediately. If we had found him dead at home, I think we always would have had fears that he might have been saved in other circumstances.)

Since my brother was not religious, somehow we wound up with a Unitarian minister, Baptist minister, and a rabbi to do the service, which was held at the Unitarian church. I don’t remember who organized that! But it worked out beautifully–the three religious leaders had coordinated their remarks and kept religion out of the service except for occasional prayers. All three were kind to the mourners and to each other, with no attempts at “one-upmanship.”

Rather than a traditional eulogy, they invited those attending, starting with me, to share their memories of my brother. I don’t remember how many spoke–the church was packed to overflowing and I recall many people coming up to share their funny stories and memories of my brother. No one said anything hurtful–even the stories that made fun of my brother’s quirky sense of humor were told with love and fond remembrance.

It was a horrible time and I still miss my brother 20 years later–but that funeral was the best one I ever attended and really helped the healing process for me and my family. I wish all who lose a loved one could have an experience like I did when my brother died.

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Noph November 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

lkb, you are very correct and don’t ever have to apologize to this “non believer”. I’ve been asked to deliver several eulogies, some of people I really didn’t know that well. Some people (even if it is their vocation) just don’t do well picking out the really wonderful comforting verses contained in the Christian bible. (Matt 5:4, Psalm 46:1,1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, Revelation 21:4 , Romans 12:15 and the list goes on and on and on.) Drama queens aside, I’ve always felt truly sorry for clergy of any faith that conduct a ceremony and the entire audience is dumbfounded by how far off the clergy person is from the point. I’m always very impressed by the clergy that knows the same tricks I do to give a good eulogy or mc a ceremony. I always hope that one day the ones that leave a poor impression on their audience will run into Haley Mills and learn about the “Glad Verses”…she’s who taught me about them since I didn’t grow up in a religious home. =)
As for selfish family members that stand up to say a few words about him/herself, there’s one in every family, some are just worse than others. I’ve actually purposely missed funerals with the blessing of the entire family since I was to drive the one in our family to the home. We all take turns driving this family member to events and at every single wedding/funeral/party she can be heard arriving in the last 30 mins arriving cursing loudly about how not one of us cousins knows how to drive anywhere. Frankly, I think we are excellent drivers considering how hard it can be to get lost in your home town and no one has shoved this woman out of their moving car.

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Em Leigh November 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm

My cousin is a priest so whenever there is a wedding or funeral he presides, so my family doesn’t have to deal with a inappropriate lecture.
At the end of a funeral anyone who has a story they want to tell about the deceased is welcome to.

At my great aunt’s funeral we were given a lecture about needing to convert, but I blocked it out so I don’t remember exactly what was said (my cousin, the priest, wasn’t there)

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AthenaC November 2, 2011 at 8:54 pm

@lkb – I am going to use that phrase whenever the opportunity presents itself – “a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

@AS – Yes there probably is a UCMJ law about the conduct, but the way it works is – if someone is high-ranking or popular, they get a pass. There are enough rules that literally anyone could be in trouble for the silliest things if the right person doesn’t like you. But on the other hand, if you are popular enough, you can do no wrong and the letter of the law doesn’t matter.

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Angie November 3, 2011 at 12:51 am

These stories remind me of my sister’s father-in-law’s funeral. He was not religious, nor was his family with the exception of one brother. The minister at his funeral was very good, saying all the right things even though he hadn’t known him. When he asked if anyone wanted to say any words, several people got up to say their piece. A lot of them told funny stories about the deceased but it was all still respectful.

Everything was fine until the religious brother got up to do the actual eulogy. He started out by giving a biography of the deceased, which is quite normal but then he went off on a tangent about all the “sins” he had committed. The dead man had been divorced and had then had a 30-year relationship with another woman without actually marrying her; the brother stated that he always considered the daughter of this relationship his niece just as much as the children from the marriage. Wow, how generous of him. Why even bring that up at a funeral?

But the icing on the cake was when he said that he was very glad he had found Jesus, and always wished that his family would follow suit – and was so glad that his deceased brother had finally accepted Jesus as his savior only a few days before he died. The man had died of brain cancer and had been semi-conscious and incoherent for about two weeks, so I have no idea how his brother figured this out.

My husband’s family also has an acquaintance who likes to be the center of attention at funerals, always claiming she was a close friend even if she barely knew the person who died. Her finest moment was pretending to faint at the moment a lady’s casket was being lowered into the ground… the daughter-in-law and granddaughter of the deceased rushed to help her, thus spending these moments ministering to a narcisstic idiot rather than saying their final goodbye to their loved one.

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Ginger November 3, 2011 at 3:33 am

@AthenaC, You are spot on about the rank and privilege. I remember one high ranking individual years ago was known to be an alcoholic and would drive up to the front gate to the base drunk. The military police manning the gate would have him move over and one of them would drive him to his home on base. He was never charged with a DUI. However, an individual I worked with was in town after a night of drinking. His friends had already left and in this place there was no public transportation whatsoever. He didn’t want to walk the 6-8 miles back to his home in the dark (no street lighting either) and so he went to sleep in the back of his car. He was woken up several hours later and charged with a DUI because his car keys were in his back pocket. He lost his rank and driving privileges on base for a year. His one mistake was he didn’t think to call his supervisor to see if someone could come pick him up.

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Steph November 3, 2011 at 4:54 am

I recently attended my boyfriend’s grandmother’s funeral. I had never met the woman but her son’s eulogy had me in tears because it was so beautiful. Hers is the only funeral I have ever attended, and I hope that any future funerals are just as non-horrifying. It never occurred to me that people could be THAT disrespectful. D:
However, I had to hide my shock at seeing some of the family in their pajamas, in sweatpants, with glitter on their chest (yes, really), etc. Not everyone has to be in a suit or modest dress, but for goodness’ sake at least wear non-ripped jeans!

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lkb November 3, 2011 at 7:52 am

Thanks for the kind words. To give credit where credit is due, the “hospital for sinners” line is from Abigail Van Buren, the late “Dear Abby”.

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penguintummy November 5, 2011 at 1:35 am

Some people just can’t keep out of family grudges, even at funerals! I attended an elderly neighbour’s funeral last year. This lady was a very hard working volunteer at the local hospital, and didn’t have any children, but did have several nephews and nieces. I only usually saw one niece and also the nephew who mowed her lawn. At the funeral however, after the wonderful eulogy from the minister, who listed all her achievements and her passions such as ballroom dancing and tennis, another niece stood up and only talked about herself and how her immediate family were so upset and had been with the neighbour the whole time she was ill. Never mentioned the first niece, who cleaned her house and visited her in hospital every day for the several months she was ill before she died.
you would think people could behave better at a funeral for your own aunt and include the whole family, especially as she didn;t have any children of her own.

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Shea November 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm

At my aunt’s funeral, her minister gave a “eulogy”, but instead of talking about my aunt and her life, he used the opportunity to give a fire-and-brimstone evangelizing sermon to our family, since Aunt was the only member of the family who attended his church (or any church at all, for that matter). We were furious, especially since Aunt wasn’t the type to try to forcibly convert people and would not in the least have appreciated her pastor’s attempts.

Then there was the memorial service of a high school classmate of mine, who was killed by a drunk driver just after high school graduation. Several local ministers spoke, and one of them decided that instead of talking about the girl, he would instead talk about the drunk who’d killed her. He went on about how this man must be suffering for having taken a human life, and how we should all have compassion for him and forgive him. Depending on your worldview, all of that may be true, but the girl’s memorial was not, in my opinion, the place for it, especially since he gave the distinct impression of feeling sorrier for the drunk (who, I might add, already had two or three DUIs and was driving on a suspended license at the time) than he did for the girl he had killed.

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Bethany November 14, 2011 at 6:49 am

LeeLee- actually the first piece of cake is given to the guest of honor, and the second piece is given to the oldest and youngest Marines present. Considering that everyone involved in the birthday ceremony usually practices multiple times before the actual ceremony, that Marine had a major incident. I also bet his Sgt. Major ripped him a new one the next day if not that evening. :)

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briana77 November 29, 2011 at 9:38 am

As a recent veteran of the Navy myself, I can tell you that on the enlisted side there is almost no training on proper etiquette. No one is taught more than the basics and unless you spend your free time researching what to do in certain situations, you will have no idea what the proper thing to do is at times. This usually gets worse as a person makes rank and some of the most horrendous breaches of etiquette were performed by commanding officers.

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