Sunday, July 26, 2009

Clergy Wife Funeral

I've never been to a funeral for a clergy wife - partly because of the moves and partly because the majority of clergy wives die long after their husband's retirement. The difficulty is the coat rack syndrome. "Clergy Spouse Bonnie Studdiford vividly recalls one clergy meeting at her home in Maine. A clergy member entered, hugged the person behind Studdiford, then removed a neck brace and raincoat and handed them to Studdiford without a word. 'We call that the `coat-rack syndrome,' Studdiford said." It's described as being visible enough to be of service but preferably as voiceless and inobtrusive as a well-trained butler.

So I've never been able to imagine what the Bishop would say at the funeral. Well actually I could and that's the problem. In my imagination it goes something like this, "We're gathered here today to support Rev. John Doe and his adult children with our presence and our prayers. John Doe has had a long and faithful service in the following communities and Dioceses. He'll be going through a difficult time for a few months but with a little extra effort on everyone's part, I'm confident that the parish will pull together and give John some space to mourn his loss."

While I'm not a big fan of eulogies, in the case of clergy wives I secretly hope that one of the kids stands up and is true to the life of their mother like Gweneth Paltrow did for her schizophrenic father in the movie "Proof". I want my kids to share the things they reminesce about at 2 a.m. in the morning when the wine loosens their tongues and they try to outdo each other on how crazy things were having parents who were in the world but not of the world.

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