On Tuesday, I met with the widow and her oldest daughter. I wrote the eulogy on Wednesday, met with my senior pastor for another brief preparation session that afternoon, and performed the funeral on Thursday morning.
The experience was surreal. I never met the man I was eulogizing. His wife attended our church but he never came with her. Fortunately, the family shared enough about him during our Tuesday morning meeting that I felt like I was able to honor him well. Halfway through the service, during one of the hymns, I unexpectedly found my eyes welling up with tears. I found myself torn: do I let the grief and sadness wash over me and express empathy with the family, or do I pull back and lead the funeral. I opted for the latter and hoped I didn't seem uncaring. Someone had to lead this community of family and friends through the grief process and the closure of a funeral and burial and I figured that was my job.
I can't remember the last time I felt so alone and so invisible. The family rightly focused their attention on the grieving matriarch, offered her comfort and support, and (rightly as well) ignored me. My role was to serve. But this was my first funeral and I wanted someone to comfort me and encourage me through this difficult task. I prayed and begged God to speak through me and empower me to serve this group of grieving friends and family and honor the life of one they loved so much.
I felt honored to be able to serve this family in their time of need and intimidated by how small I felt in such a huge role as presiding over a funeral and leading prayer at a graveside. It was definitely an experience I'll never forget.