Preaching a Stranger’s Funeral

During the pandemic, a family asked me to officiate their loved one’s funeral. I arrived twenty minutes early at Westview Cemetery, but a long line of cars already awaited the funeral procession. I nodded to the funeral home director, passed all of the guests, and parked behind the hearse.

At the appointed hour, I led the family and friends to the grave site. I parked down the road to make room for the family. After pulling on an overcoat and mask, I walked to the funeral tent with my Book of Worship.

A brass trio played jazzy spirituals as the crowd gathered. Then I saw a stranger dressed in a clergy robe who held a Bible. Huh. I didn’t recall any of these details in the funeral plans. Looking around, I also did not recognize a single soul.

I was about to officiate the wrong funeral.

Turning quickly on my heel, I hurried back to the truck and pondered my next move. Westview Cemetery contains 100,000+ gravesites scattered over 600 acres; and I had five minutes to find the right one.

I had never sped through a cemetery before, but I would have given a NASCAR pole winner a run for his money. After a frantic few minutes, I finally spied a likely crowd gathering around a freshly turned grave. I drifted around a final curve and came to a head-snapping stop.

I hurried to the graveside—only to discover the pastor co-officiating the service was running late. After a deep sigh of relief, I prepared to celebrate a life lived long and well.

All my life I’ve heard the saying, “You’ll be late for your own funeral.” Turns out the adage is true for officiants as well.  

2 thoughts on “Preaching a Stranger’s Funeral

  1. Classic story! Good to know that those whom we see as completely led by God sometime miss the signals. I’m sure you handled it with class. Thanks for the story!


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