Eulogy Heard By Nobody
It was Jimmy Martin’s first church; fresh from seminary. Youth pastor; that’s where they all cut their teeth; young pastors connect with young people hoping to keep them from drugs, booze, sex, rap, and unwholesome entertainment. Jimmy was not that far removed from the scene; still liked rap, violent video games, and occasionally got a buzz on margaritas just before bedtime.
His duties in addition to looking after wayward youth was to check the mail. Normally a task relegated to church secretaries. Miss Cavander was well past the age of checking anything but her pulse. She was kindly, sweet, inapt, but nobody was about to fire her.
“Why do you keep working, Miss Cavander,” Jimmy asked one day placing the mail on her desk.
She pulled him close and whispered. “It’s a pay check and they don’t dare fire me. My mind is sharp. I know all the dirt. Every cheating wife, husband, pregnant girl who needs an abortion, every boy who has a pregnant girl friend who needs an abortion, every pastor, parishioner, pervert, and peeper in this church passes by my desk. I got the dirt on everybody.”
Jimmy smiled and pulled away. “You certainly are pragmatic, Miss Cavader. I’m curious about something, each month there is an envelope from Nathan Miller at the Pleasant Springs Nursing Home, who is he?”
“Curiosity, Martin, will get you in trouble around here,” Miss Cavander said. “But no matter what I say you will insist on finding out. He was the pastor who built this massive revenue making conglomeration into what it is today. Councilmen, Congressmen, and Governors pass through these doors to receive the churches blessing before going further. That’s not what Nathan Miller wanted. Go see him.”
Jimmy waited a few days He reasoned he was the “youth” pastor and the first words he remembered the current head pastor, Rudy Storm, say was, “A good pastor knows his place and keeps it until the Lord opens another place for him.”
Eventually the day came when Jimmy visited Nathan Miller. Pastor Miller sat quietly in a rocking chair with his hands folded. Jimmy introduced himself. The visit was pleasant. Jimmy was shocked that this was the first visit he had received in five years except for Miss Cavander’s weeklies. “She keeps me up to date,” Pastor Miller said. “You can trust that old gal.”
Jimmy remembered the advice of Rudy Storm and did not pry, but Pastor Miller told him plenty about the churches beginnings. The dots were not hard to connect how it became a mega-church. In all it was the entire afternoon.
Before leaving Jimmy cautiously said, “Pastor Miller, you are quite old and I would be remiss if I did not say that it is very likely your days are near to their end.”
“Indeed,” Pastor Miller said. “I’ve lived well past the first people who walked through the doors of that small church with nothing more than a potbellied stove to keep us from freezing in the winter. What do you have in mind.”
“Your eulogy, Pastor Miller,” Jimmy said. “What would you like to have said?”
With not so much as a blink of the eye Pastor Miller said, “Very simply, 'it was all for nothing.'”
“Such a eulogy would be devastating for many,” Jimmy said.
“You got to be kidding me,” Pastor Miller said. “Nobody will be there.”
Jimmy placed his hands on Pastor Millers folded hands. “I’ll be there. I will give your eulogy.”
“Jimmy,” Pastor Miller said. “You are a bright and compassionate young man. My words will roll around in your head for awhile. They will begin to make sense and you’ll leave. You won’t be around.”
“Do you still believe in God?” Jimmy asked.
“More strongly now than when I first stepped into the pulpit,” Pastor Miller said. “It’s the church I have problems with. Go quietly young man, forget all that you learned from seminary, and read the Bible with a fresh approach free from doctrine and dogma.”
“That would make a beautiful sermon,” Jimmy said.
“People are tired of sermons,” Pastor Miller said. “They want entertainment, showmanship, and shock. Come to think of it, that would shock them.”
Jimmy stood. “Thanks, Pastor Miller.”
“For what?” Pastor Miller said.
“You’ve saved me a lot of work,” Jimmy said. “You wrote your own eulogy for me.”
For the next month, indeed, the words of Pastor Miller rolled around in Jimmy’s head as he said they would.
One day while placing the mail on Miss Cavander’s desk she asked, “Did you go out to visit Pastor Miller?”
“Yes,” Jimmy said.
“I thought so,” Miss Cavander said. “You’ve been acting a bit strange as of late. What did you discuss?
"He shared with me many of his memories about the church," Jimmy said. "He was the only pastor for 26 years; he did it all. He said he allowed the weasels to slip in and they forced him out. And we talked about a eulogy.”
“Did he tell you to go to hell?” Miss Cavander said.
“No,” Jimmy said and smiled.
“Than he must like you,” Miss Cavander said.
“Yes, I’m sure he does,” Jimmy said. “He suggested a very short eulogy and I’m going to give it as he wished. But a proper funeral should have music. You know him well what do you think he’d like?”
“Pastor Miller and I were in our thirties when The Beatles became popular,” Miss Cavander said. “We often listened to them and as soon as we saw a car pull-up in the parking lot we turned them off. We didn‘t want anyone thinking we were hippies or something. Pastor Miller was a good man, he wasn‘t a prude.”
“A Beatles selection, Miss Cavander?” Jimmy said. “Something from them that would describe who he was?”
“Now you’re thinking,” Miss Cavander said.
“What would you suggest, Miss Cavander?” Jimmy said.
“When that day comes,” Miss Cavander said. “You give the eulogy and I’ll play a song. It will be a surprise.”
“Fair enough, Miss Cavander,” Jimmy said. “I suspect it will be my last eulogy.”
“I suspect so,” Miss Cavander said. “The only mention Pastor Miller made of you is that you were special and that someday you’ll find an honest living.”
Three weeks later Pastor Miller died. His funeral was scheduled at small funeral home in town. The church deacons did not want to spend the extra money it would take to heat the auditorium and the church’s heated swimming pool was costing them a fortune as it was. All the auxiliary rooms were in use; drug rehab, Marriage Counseling, Divorced Couples Prayer Meeting, day-care, Cooking for Jesus classes, Christian Businessmen’s Roundtable, and Gays for Reform and Reconciliation.
There was only one person present at the funeral as Jimmy stepped to the lectern, Miss Cavander. He smiled at her and she smiled in return.
Jimmy cleared his throat. “It was all for nothing.” He nodded at Miss Cavander she stood and walked to the back of the room. She selected a track on a CD. Jimmy and Miss Cavander sat reverentially and listened.
After the song Jimmy asked Miss Cavander, “Can I take you to lunch?”
“Certainly,” Miss Cavander said.
“To make this a very pleasant lunch I’m handing you an envelope,” Jimmy said.
“What’s in it?” Miss Cavander said.
“My resignation,” Jimmy said.
“I’ll drop it off when I clean out my things,” Miss Cavander said. “I have resigned also.”
“Curious,” Jimmy said.
“What do you plan on doing?” Miss Cavander said.
“Don’t know,” Jimmy said. “What was it Pastor Miller wanted to be besides a pastor. In all the time you worked together he must have said something.”
“Strange you should ask,” Miss Cavander said. “When he got frustrated he always said he should have been a farmer and I’d always say you never farmed a day in your life and he’d say you’re right. Now that I think about it I crushed the man’s real ambition. Have you ever thought about farming, Jimmy?”
“No,” Jimmy said. “Why did he want to be a farmer?”
“Over the years Pastor Miller must have buried hundreds of farmers,” Miss Cavandar said. “They never die alone. Every farmer struggles and works alone all his life. Other farmers know that. When they here an old farmer died they come.”
“Hmmm,” Jimmy said.
“What was the name of the song you played?” Jimmy said. “It was interesting.”
“Eleanor Rigby,” Miss Cavander said.
“Yes,” Jimmy said. “It’s a lonely song.”
“He was a lonely man,” Miss Cavander said.
“So am I Miss Cavander,” Jimmy said. “So am I.”