The last thing I expected was to see my name on the program.
A week ago Monday my boss and his wife, Connie, let me know that her father had passed away that morning. The funeral was not set yet, but they were anticipating it to be held at the end of the week. I expressed my love and offered to play the organ at the funeral. “Thanks, but my brothers and sisters are planning the service and they’ll get an organist.” (Just to clarify—Mormons don’t have any paid clergy, so it’s not like I was butting in on someone else’s job or was trying to get a gig or anything.)
“Okay. That’s fine.”
I saw my boss and his wife several times during the following days, but the only thing I ever heard about the funeral was that it was set for Friday at noon at an LDS chapel about 20 minutes away from my home.
Let me restate that. On a typical day the trip can be completed in twenty minutes. But this was obviously not a typical day, because semi-trucks filled with crab meat don’t tip over at freeway off-ramps and make such a mess that the exit has to be closed for three hours on typical days.
Most of the drivers I encountered seemed unaffected by my weaving in and out and trying to find my way around the highway patrol guys. It was just the highway patrol guys who got annoyed with me. But there were no indications that the wet lane wasn’t open yet. Honest!
The church housed a beautiful Wicks pipe organ. I was late for the pre-funeral viewing, but not for the service proper. After collapsing my stressed out body in an empty pew I looked to the front of the chapel. “I wonder who gets to play that today…” wistfully admiring the pipes and console. “Wait…it’s 11:58….where’s the prelude music? Where’s the organist?”
I spied a funeral program sitting on the music rack of the organ. I squinted. “That looks like my name at the top. Why would my name be on the program? Unless…” I get a closer look. So there! It’s not actually my name. It’s only similar to my name. The last name is different.
Connie never could get my last name right.
After a quick consultation with the presiding officer it is confirmed that I indeed am the organist for the service. No music, no shoes, no glasses. Hop on the bench. Find the ‘on’ switch. Grab a nearby hymnal. Take a deep breath and “stand up everybody” here comes the casket. It’s fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-playing like I’ve never done before!
Later that evening I recounted the story to my husband.
“So how did you do?” he asked.
“Well….I sightread the opening hymn, but the closing hymn sounded good. And you know, there is a bright side to this whole experience.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“If I had to walk into a funeral and find my name on the program, at least it was as the organist and not as the deceased.”