The Difficult Ones

The Meenister’s Log

Funerals are always difficult, and especially when the circumstances aren’t straightforward.

Some years ago a patient, who was known only as “patient X” died in hospital.  He had committed the vilest of crimes and was loathed by the community.

It was agreed that the funeral arrangements should be as secretive as possible.  The undertakers arrived at the mortuary on the day of the funeral, did what was necessary, and at a pre-arranged time I was to leave by a back door and quickly get into the hearse.

The drive to the crematorium took a while, with one of the two funeral directors “riding shotgun” to ensure no media folk or paparazzi were following.

By a circuitous route we got to our destination, only to find the doors of the crematorium shut and no mention of the time of the service on the noticeboard.

“They’ve forgotten about us!”

No,they hadn’t. It was all part of the secrecy.  The door opened ajar, then fully and in we went.

The funeral directors and crematorium staff left me on my own with the coffin on the catafalque and went off somewhere else.

Did I say the appropriate words and pray the appropriate prayers?

Of course I did.  He was some mother’s son, and one of God’s children, however flawed.  He had been judged in a court of law and found guilty…. so, who are we to make our own judgements?


There have been several funerals where the police have outnumbered the mourners.  There have been verbal insults traded and physical blows exchanged.  There have been mourners who could barely stand because they had been drinking since dawn. And, above all the rowdiness, they forget what the occasion is all about.

Just prior to one interment, at a distance from the grave, two brothers were arguing and pushing each other.  I went up to them and reminded them that we were here to pay our last respects and last offices of love to their deceased father.

It transpired that one son had stayed in the same area as his parents, but his brother had moved a distance away because of work considerations and had rarely come home to visit; his sibling had done everything for his parents by contrast.

Hence the recriminations.

I metaphorically knocked their heads together and some robust words may have been used.

“Forget all this nonsense – put on a show of unity even if it’s temporary – your mother needs your support at this time – now get over to that graveside and stand beside her”

And they did.  And do you know something?  Even though it was a sad occasion, the widow, looking at one son to another, actually looked happy.

They all left together and I hope that fraternal bond was re-established.


A very long time ago – no details – a young pregnant mum with her small daughter were crossing a road when they were knocked down by a speeding car.

The mother suffered multiple injuries and was hospitalised for many weeks; tragically, the little girl was killed, as was the unborn baby.

The church was packed to capacity for the service.  What does one say at a time like that?  What can one say that will take away the hurt, the shock, the grief, the disbelief, the anger and the appalling sense of hopelessness?

It’s at times like these that many people turn against God…. but this young couple came back to the church on several occasions, even although they weren’t members.

What a world of sadness this can be; what a world of hope that rises above the awfulness it could be.


“Tears in Heaven” is a ballad written by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings about the pain Clapton felt following the death of his four-year-old son, Conor, who fell from a window of the 53rd-floor New York apartment of his mother’s friend, on March 20, 1991. Clapton, who arrived at the apartment shortly after the accident, was visibly distraught for months afterwards.

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August 8, 2012 · 13:20

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