This title is not making a theological statement; of course we can and should prepare for our own funeral. This is about something else.
Bishop: Father, I need you to come in for an important committee meeting on the third Thursday of next month.
Priest: Vladyka, I’m sorry, but I can’t make it.
Bishop: Why not?
Priest: I already have something scheduled for that day.
Priest: A funeral.
It’s funny because… you can’t plan for funerals.
There’s another reason why it’s funny (aside from the generally dark tone): if there is to be a funeral, it is pretty much guaranteed that it will not end up getting you out of a committee meeting. Instead it will fall at the least convenient time possible.
To many of you, even rating the timing of funerals as “convenient” or “inconvenient” is gauche. You are right. Perhaps the discussion of such things should take place in smoky back rooms (or perhaps behind a paywall). It is, of course, true that funerals, like the hospital or hospice calls that (ideally) precede them go straight to the top of the list. They are what we do and we love what we do as priests. Seriously. It may be gauche to talk about such things in mixed company (and I would never do such a thing), but this is a website on vocations (pardon the smoke; care for a cigar?).
But my main point is not about propriety, it has to do with expectation and time management.
I am a procrastinator (just google INFP). Many of us are. My solution is to be pretty strict with my routine and to keep a calendar. For various reasons that have to do with the realities of family life, I lost most of the time I had scheduled to research and write a paper for an academic conference. Finally, it ended up getting pushed to just one day; the day that I had set aside to work on the presentation of the paper would now be spent finishing it. The day before the conference. This felt a bit tense, but not unreasonable (I’ve done such things before).
And then, a few days before that day, I got the call.
Glory to God, the funeral (of a woman that had been a real saint through a long hospice experience) went well. The mercy meal was warm and full of stories about her life (as it should be). All morning and afternoon I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to do, and doing it as well as my limited gifts would allow (again, glory to God… and the funeral service He has given the His Church!).***
And now? I’d best get to work on that paper!
Yours in Christ,
*** We cannot plan for funerals but we can prepare for them. It’s a good idea in established parishes to keep everything necessary for funerals ready to go (and easy for another priest to step in and serve for you, should we be out of town, etc.). This takes a lot of the stress of funerals and their timing out of the equation.