My Worst Funeral Ever!

I’ve done a lot of funerals in my 30 plus years of pastoral ministry, but this one was the worst…ever! 

It was a bleak, wintry day and I was already a bit blue. The snow machine of Lake Erie had kicked in and I was driving under gray skies into the west side of downtown Cleveland. This once bright and promising Leave it To Beaver neighborhood of the 50’s, was now stained from wear, and the snow and cold only added to the dreary scene.

I drove through the slush, found my way to the well-used funeral home, stepped inside the dark foyer, with the organ dirge already droning – unaware my day was about to get even more bleak.

I’d made a commitment to someone I barley knew, to officiate the funeral of someone that the person I barely knew, barely knew. It turned out that the funeral was for an old man who had lived well into his 90’s. And here’s where the day gets even more depressing.

Only 9 people showed up and 7 of them were forced to.

(That’s no exaggeration!)

Evidently the old man had not only been really old, but he had been really mean and no one – absolutely no one – had anything good to say about the man laying in the box up front (can you say “awkward”), and I certainly wasn’t going to make something up, so I read a few scriptures (that’s always safe) and did a short prayer (also safe), then rolled him to the hearse, drove to the cemetery, lowered him into the ground, and threw some dirt on him.

That was it. A life lived. A legacy left.

This event occurred at least 25 years ago, yet to this day it still haunts me and motivates me. As I drove home, I decided then and there that I would live my life in a way that counts. And by the grace of God (and some really hard work) – I have.

How about you? 

Some people believe that thinking about death is morbid but it’s not; actually our mortality should be a motivator. It’s no secret. We’re all going to die and when we do, we’re going to leave some kind of legacy.

What will yours be?

Please leave a comment. Love to hear from you.

Leaving a legacy

Ken L Roberts

(This is the 1st in a 5 post series on Building A Life That Counts)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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16 thoughts on “My Worst Funeral Ever!

  1. Sad but true Ken. My Mother-in-Laws step-dad was a very mean, troubled man. So much so that he didn't even HAVE a funeral. Comparing this to my pastor Father-in-law who went home when he was 59, was extra-ordinary. Over a thousand people came to not only offer their condolences, but to share with us their changed lives because of him. It was a balm to our broken hearts and a vivid reminder of how we need to live our lives. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kenny — Good blog. Our culture in this generation has done everything that we can to isolate and insulate ourselves from death. It wasn't always thus. And like you said, it is GOOD for us to be exposed to it occasionally to remind us of our own mortality. I heard one preacher say that he recommended folks attend at least two funerals a year. There's wisdom in that. As for me, I want my legacy to be that I helped others love God more than they did before.

  3. Pastor Ken,
    When my Dad passed I was blessed to be able to give his eulogy, I started with what I knew my Dad's legacy to be…unconditional love. I am the fourth of seven children and like my Dad love each one of my siblings, we all know that there isn't anything we could have ever done to make our Dad stop loving us. Great feeling!

    Thats when I started to live that out loud and let everyone around me in my life KNOW, they are cared about. I may not like everything people do but I am sure going to let you know that you matter!

    Thanks for giving us a place to share

  4. I remember you shared this verse once on a series you did on Heaven and Hell…Ecclesiastes 7:2
    "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart."
    I never forgot that… good word Pastor Ken!

  5. Jeff,

    True; very true. I'm not afraid to die but I certainly don't want to waste my life while waiting to die.

    Keep at it. One day HE will say "well done, good and faithful servant."


  6. As a funeral director and minister, I too have been to these funerals. I worked at one funeral home who 'made' us attend the service of a lady who had no family, outlived her friends and was a recluse. And there was the guy, that one the way to the graveside (no service) it was cold and sleeting, and the funeral director told me "Mark, you want to be a minister, here's your chance. I couldn't get a minister so you'll do it." I learned to always be ready when attending services!

    Then as funeral director, I've had ministers not show up. Again, you just fill in where you can.

    Sad statements for our society.

  7. Mark

    Thanks for the comment. It is true, the way we live life and deal with death, says a lot about us and about our society.

    By the grace of God, I hope to live a life by which He will one day say, "well done…enter into the joy….

    Keep at it


  8. I did a funeral like this when I was a Pastor a church in Iowa. The funeral director called me the day before the funeral and asked me if I could do him a favor and I told him if I could I would. He had me come to the funeral home all dressed up and when I got there I was asked if I would do this funeral for this man and woman. I didn't know them at all and neither did he or his wife but the hospital called and told them that they needed someone to get 2 people ready for a funeral. Well to make a long story short, neither of them were believers or even went to church and there was nobody willing to do this at all. They both were so hateful that people in their town didn't want anything to do with them. The funeral director couldn't find anyone even to be pall bearers for them. So finally the sheriff department took out 20 people from jail and made them come to the funeral to be pall bearers and to see what they could look forward too if they didn't straighten up their lives. Most of them were the same way as this man and woman were in life, mean and hateful and down right nasty. The only good part about the whole funeral was that I gave a salvation message and 5 asked Jesus to come into their lives. Blessings from the FAR NORTH – Alaska

  9. Dear Kenny,

    Your poignant blog is compelling food for thought to a world fixated on youth, and living forever(here and now)! The only way to leave a legacy is to be a follower of Jesus! Thank you for the groundwork that you helped the Lord lay in my life while a member of Worldview Community church in Ohio! You are right, it takes much hard work, prayer, mercy and the grace of God to leave a legacy that glorifies God! I'm working on it!!


  10. Thank you for this post, Ken. As someone who watched both my parents lives and the impact they had, I have, as others have stated, thought more intentionally about the impact I have on those around me. One of the last things my Father said to me and my brother was, "It's up to you now to carry on." I hear those words often in my head. Thank you again. I enjoy hearing what is on your heart!

  11. Brenda

    so, so true. For those of us who were honored to have parents that made a difference in our lives' and the live's of many others, there is even a greater responsibility and desire to play our part in having an impacting life and influencing others. Keep at it!


  12. I heard this once and it stuck with me. “It is not the date on the tomb shone that tells when you were born or the date that tells when you died that matters, but rather dash in between”.