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Cheryl Hughes: Misrepresentation

A little over a week ago, I attended a Celebration of Life funeral service for my brother-in-law’s father, Carlos.  Charles was an only child, and his mom (who passed 15 years ago) and his dad and he were a tight-knit family.  When Charles married my sister, Lorrie, she was welcomed into the family as one of their own.  Carlos was a diabetic.  He entered the hospital a little over four weeks ago with a sore on his foot that would not heal.  Things went from bad to worse, and Carlos passed away from a variety of complications.  During one week of the hospital stay, I lived at Lorrie’s and Charles’ home so I could help with my mom, who also lives with them.  I watched the couple take shifts at the hospital around the clock.  Carlos was never alone.  When he passed, both Lorrie and Charles were devastated.  As they began making funeral arrangements, I cleared things off my agenda, so I could return and help with Mom, in order to give them one less thing to worry with.  I watched as this grieving couple had to deal with a situation—during all of my sixty-five years on this earth—I would never have believed was possible.  This is that story.

 

Carlos was an art teacher with an architect’s proclivity.  His father had been an architect who designed and gave of his time and resources to construct the church where the family attended services.  Later, Carlos designed an addition to the church, and gave of his time and resources in that construction, as well.  Lorrie knew some of the members there, so when Carlos passed, she contacted a member with a request to hold Carlos’ funeral on the following Sunday, at the church that had so much meaning for Carlos and his father before him.  The member assured her that the day was open, and he didn’t see any problem with the arrangement. 

The small town where they live has one newspaper, published weekly, and Charles got the announcement into the paper just in the nick of time.  Later, that afternoon, the funeral home contacted Lorrie to tell her there was a problem with the arrangements at the church.  Lorrie assumed it was a conflict of events, like a wedding that was scheduled to take place that the church member she had contacted wasn’t aware of. 

Unbeknownst to Lorrie and Charles, the pastor of the church had recently been told his services were no longer required.  He would be out on his ear in short order.  He contacted Lorrie and told her the funeral would not take place at “his” church, because the couple had not gone through the proper channels when making their request.  According to the bylaws of that denomination, they were to submit their request to him (the pastor) not to one of the church members.  In view of the error, he would not allow the funeral to take place in “his” church.

Lorrie offered an apology and told the pastor she meant no disrespect.  The pastor wouldn’t budge.  She told him of the long history the family had with the church, including the time and resources they had given.  The pastor wouldn’t budge.  As she continued to try to reason with the pastor, he kept repeating, “Mam, it’s not going to happen, and if you don’t stop talking, I’m going to hang up on you!”

 

Lorrie is a lawyer, and as everybody knows, built into the nature of a good lawyer is the inability to stop talking.  Lorrie kept talking, and true to his word, the pastor hung up.  When Charles contacted the church member who had okayed the service, the member said Charles had misunderstood him, then he blamed Charles for not going through the proper channels.

Lorrie and Charles attend a small non-denominational church in the county.  The building is one of those small white churches reminiscent of the song “Church in the Wildwood.”  They quickly changed gears and worked on getting their church ready for the funeral.  Carlos was a well-known, well-liked individual in the community, so they knew they would somehow have to adapt the venue to accommodate all the attendees.  Because the church interior was small, they set up a tent outdoors with several folding chairs then rented a sound system so the service could be heard in that area, as well as inside.  They drove to a nearby town to pick up carpet for the front steps, because the older carpet had defects that they were concerned would cause elderly attendees to trip.  They scheduled handymen to install the carpet.  They did all these things during the day, then stayed for visitation from five to nine on Friday and Saturday evening. 

When the church with the outgoing pastor sent a wreath of condolence to the funeral home, the director, aware of what had transpired, asked Lorrie what she wanted done with it.  Lorrie told her to put it out with the other flowers.  My sister is a lot better person than I am.  I would have told the director to nail it to the front door of the church with a “Return to Sender” banner plastered across it.

When you arrive at the STOP sign at the end of the street where Carlos lived, you will see a billboard in front of you.  It was placed there by the church that refused to honor him.  It says, “Jesus is the Way.”  If I were Jesus, I would insist that they remove my name immediately.  I sure wouldn’t want them representing me.

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