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The Benefit of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

A friend of mine who’d moved to a continuous care retirement community about 40 minutes away died the other day. Before his passing, he told his wife that he wanted his service to be in the new church the couple had attended for several months.

A few of us were surprised but accepting that he didn’t want it held in the island church he’d attended for more than a decade. The notion definitely didn’t sit well with an individual who knew the man from a couple of organizations they both belonged to, including a luncheon group for male retirees.

“He needs to have a service here, in the church he attended for so many years,” the man said shortly after the funeral arrangements were announced.

“Those weren’t his last wishes,” I said to the elderly man. “And, really, it’s none of your business where his funeral is held.” The last sentence came after listening to his whining for several Sundays. I wasn’t the only one he spoke with about it. It felt like it had become a cause celebre for him.

Nonetheless, he and his wife attended the funeral with about 100 other friends of the deceased. It was lovely. The widow had meticulously planned the service to include the beautiful music her husband loved, including the grand finale, which was a rip-roaring organ solo.

Everyone was delighted, except for the man who didn’t like the location. Even after the event, he continued to grouse about it.

I suppose out of frustration or perhaps to placate – or shut up – this curmudgeonly fellow, the men involved in the luncheon group decided to ask the pastor of the church their late friend had attended for so long to say a few words. Fifteen minutes max, with a piece of scripture thrown in, and then the dozen or so of them would adjourn for lunch and the topic of the day: the many contributions of their late friend. The widow said she was fine with this plan but would not be attending.

Was all well? Yes, until the curmudgeon decided to send out an email to another organization in which his late friend was involved. After that move, word spread quickly of the “service.” The announcement appeared in the local newspaper on Friday, with a photograph.

The widow became aware of the situation when she received a phone call from a woman asking if she could bring cookies to the service.

“What service!?” the widow exclaimed and then went into hyper meltdown.

In the conversation with me that followed, we envisioned a 15-minute service with no music, no usher, no flowers and no widow. Word about this odd event would spread quickly around the little island with no good outcome.

Fortunately, the level-headed pastor was able to put the genie back in the bottle. If several extra folks show up at the “service” it will be explained to them that this is a private event, but they are welcome to stay for a few brief comments about their friend, he told me.

The pastor also assured me that the curmudgeon was repentant and truly sorry for any trouble he caused. He didn’t realize the so-called service was just for a small group. The widow and I were not convinced.

As I prepared to go to church this Sunday, my man cautioned me about attacking the poor old guy for all the trouble he started. I grimaced and said through clenched teeth: “I will not make a scene.” I meant it. But let’s just say if this busybody approaches me, I’m going to need a little help controlling myself from the Man upstairs.

I won’t forget this story, because it will serve as a reminder to me to keep my nose out of other people’s business – unless asked. It’s good advice for all of us.

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