Normally, I appreciate funerals; but in our ward there had been a goodly number of funerals in recent weeks, and I, as a member of the bishopric and thus a faithful attender of all the funerals in the ward, was beginning to find a tedious sameness in the services. At least I thought so that Thursday morning as I settled in my usual chair behind the pulpit to participate in yet another funeral.
Battling such less-than-lofty thoughts, I concentrated on the man who had died, a prominent local physician, a good man. I hadn’t known him well, but I felt the first speaker, now approaching the pulpit, would soon take care of that. He, too, was a doctor, approaching middle-age; and he began recalling his early years in the profession, years in which the older doctor had performed great personal and professional services for the young doctor. As he recounted the generosity of the deceased, I thought again of the truism that we never really know all the good people do.
Then the speaker began to recall how he, his dead friend, and another older doctor had often fished together, how they had enjoyed memorable times on the local streams and reservoirs. Suddenly he paused, obviously filled with emotion, and solemnly reflected, “Those two men are probably embracing now, on the other side, and recalling those good times together.”
Immediately there was a stir in the rear of the chapel. An elderly man, slightly built, but obviously still vigorous, rose to his feet, rapidly waved both arms, and cried resoundingly: “I’m still here, doctor. I’m still here!”
“Dr. Brown,” gasped the astonished speaker, his face turning a telestial red, “I thought you had. … I—I—thought you were …” and his voice trailed off to a long gasp.
Shocked, the congregation involuntarily laughed, then paused and laughed again, gleefully. The dozers among the congregation, repenting their indiscretions, turned to ask their more alert neighbors the cause of the stir; when they found out the source, their own laughter swelled into a second wave. The speaker, obviously embarrassed, attempted to recover control by repeating the old tale of Elder J. Golden Kimball’s memorable confusion in a similar service: He had preached a sermon covering with glory a man whom he suddenly saw seated among the congregation, obviously very much alive. Hearing this, the congregation laughed again. The flustered doctor, now completely confused, rapidly ended his remarks and turned the pulpit to a properly sober speaker who was unaffected by his predecessor’s distraction.
Forcing myself to a sedate and bishopricly composure, I listened attentively, as I have ever since at funerals, never knowing in such services when a stray bit of earth will again collide delightfully with the solemnities of eternity.