HUCKABY: Funerals call for a personal touch

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

It seems like I have been to a lot of funerals lately, which tells me something about myself. I have lived long enough to get to the point to where a lot of people I know are dying. Speaking of getting older, whenever a person talks about it, people are quick to say, “It’s better than the alternative.” Actually, that statement is not very scriptural if you believe what the Bible teaches about eternity. We’ll save that discussion for another day. Funerals are on my mind right now.

I will admit that I have given thought to my own funeral as of late. About 18 months ago I was at a funeral and the funeral director came up and asked me about my health, and I told him the truth. He said, “Well, Brother Huckaby, you might as well not even go home.”

I am much better now, thank you, but I still sort of wish I could be like Tom Sawyer and attend my own funeral, just to see how people act and what they have to say. Mark Twain said that we should endeavor to live our lives so that when we die, even the undertaker is sad. Now there is something to ponder.

The saddest funerals I have attended are those of my un-churched friends, when it is obvious that the officiating preacher had no knowledge of the person to whom we were saying goodbye. That is sad on so many levels, and I hope someone makes sure that my funeral is preached by someone who knows me well. I have always expected Marshall Edwards to be one of the officiates. Marshall gave me a scare year or so ago when he had a serious heart attack. I called him up and said to him, “Don’t you dare die before I do! You have to preach my funeral.” He assured me that he had already recorded my funeral and Sam Ramsey’s funeral and James Hutchins’ funeral and that he had several life-sized cardboard cut-outs to stand behind the pulpit, just in case.

I already knew that Marshall ain’t right, but that clinched it.

Now I told you that to tell you this. When I finally do go, I want a funeral just like Mr. Joe Marrett’s.

Mr. Marrett was the father of my uncle, Jerry Marrett. Actually, Jerry is my wife’s uncle and he and my “Aunt Renee” are about my age, but I have been proud to claim kin with them ever since I married into the family. I have known Jerry’s daddy, on the periphery, for the last 30-plus years and have always admired him and always enjoyed being around him when our paths happened to cross, which they did more often than you might suspect. We were both fans of food and often frequented the same establishments.

The past few years it was harder and harder to make Mr. Marrett remember who I was. He was born when Warren G. Harding was president and turned 90 on his last birthday. But not knowing who I was never stopped him from passing the time of day with me. He always had a good word and a funny story — and I loved running into him — whether he was wearing his 10-gallon hat or his railroad engineer’s cap or one of his random farm equipment baseball caps. Mr. Joe was a big man, physically and spiritually, with a larger-than-life personality. The last time I talked to him was just before Christmas. He was sitting at the counter at Mellow Mushroom, eating shrimp. I was happy to get to talk to him and he spoke to me about the Bible that day. Honesty compels me to admit that I didn’t take in all he was saying because I was a little preoccupied. I was wondering how I could get them to serve me a plate of those delicious-looking shrimp at the pizza place.

But the reason I want my funeral to be like his is because it was so real and so personal. The music included some of my favorites, especially “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Memories.” We had both those done at my mama’s funeral. You could tell that the minister who preached the funeral knew Mr. Marrett well, and had not only served as his minister but had also learned from him. The stories he told were genuine and true and appreciated by all the folks who were in attendance. He made us laugh and he made us feel better and there was no question that he really knew the man whose funeral he was preaching.

Two of his grandchildren spoke — and it was obvious that they spoke from the heart. I would love to have my grandchildren speak at my funeral — for several reasons.

The congregation was also given a chance to speak and it was obvious from the heartfelt words of those who chose to testify that Joe Marrett made a big difference in a lot of lives. We had a term for someone like him in Porterdale. He was “much a man.” I can’t give a higher compliment.

I will miss running into Mr. Joe and I will miss hearing stories about what he’s up to from his grandchildren at camp meeting. But I know one thing for sure. Mr. Joe Marrett was a man of God and where he is right now — well, that is better than the alternative. May he rest in peace.