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When You're Asked to Bury a Stranger


What to say about someone you've never met


As I drove to the funeral home all I knew about this man was that he was a farm hand. I wondered, "What can I say about someone I've never even met?"

Since that day, I have been called upon to bury several more strangers, and I've learned to:

1. Acknowledge the truth: "I didn't know Mrs. Burris."
2. Help unlock the memories of those gathered: "But you did know her." Then lead a series of prayerful statements to draw out people's memories:

  1. Do you remember the sound of her voice on the telephone?
  2. Do you remember how she looked in her wedding pictures?
  3. Do you remember how she sat in her favorite chair?
  4. Do you remember the way she blushed when she was embarrassed?
  5. Do you remember the way she spoke your name?
  6. Do you remember her standing at the kitchen sink?
  7. Do you remember the feel of her hand in yours?

And so on. Try to evoke memories most common to human experience and not those that ...

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