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Lessons from the Undertaker

by Jordan Moore

No, not the WWE wrestler (though I suppose you can draw lessons from just about anywhere). Rather, more specifically, during the recent death of my Grandad, I observed some very interesting things about the mortician (sometimes known as “the undertaker”). In those observations, I came away with a number of lessons learned:

Some jobs are labors of love. Obviously, this man was getting paid for his services, but there are some occupations that undoubtedly require a special kind of a person. Undertaking is certainly one of those occupations. To be one who constantly deals with death and heartache and pain would unquestionably have an impact on who you are as a person, the moods that you possess, and your overall outlook on life. 

I imagine that very few people ever grow up wanting to be (or think they would ever be) a mortician. It’s not a glamorous occupation, nor is it a clean and entertaining job. But someone has to do it. In the meantime, it presents many opportunities to minister to others. I’m not suggesting that being a mortician should be at the top of your list for potential employment, but I wonder if too often we shy away from opportunities that are placed before us to minister to others because the job is dirty, or disgusting, or difficult?

As an excuse, we might even say (as was previously mentioned), “it takes a special kind of a person to do a job like that.” But may we remind ourselves that, as Christians, we are supposed to be a special kind of person. Not because there’s anything about you that’s superior to others, but because you belong to, and are to act like Jesus. He was a special kind of person that selflessly performed lots of labors of love – dirty ones (Jn. 13:5), disgusting ones (Mt. 8:2-3), and difficult ones (Rom. 5:6-10).

You can really show a person how much you care by the way that you listen. This man had overseen hundreds, maybe thousands of funerals. He was quite literally a professional in the realm of death. He knew the ins and outs of all things pertaining to funeral services and what is best, and yet he listened to our requests and thoughts regarding the process. Very often, we become complacent in our work – we clock in, get our work done, and clock out as quickly as possible. Especially when we’ve done something a thousand times, it becomes automatic, machine-like. Yet this mortician still listened. 

However, it wasn’t just the fact that he listened, but it was the way he listened. I couldn’t help but notice three things about his listening skills while we were conversing: a) he intently looked us in the eye, showing undivided attention; b) he slowly nodded his head, communicating that he was taking in every word that we were saying; and c) he took a moment before responding to each of our comments, revealing a thoughtfulness about his words. 

We would all do well to be great listeners, especially in times when people are hurting. Jesus was. He listened to those with ailments (Jn. 5:1-19), He listened to those under attack (Jn. 8:1-11), He listened to those who were grieving (Jn. 11:32-33), and He listened to those who were searching (Jn. 4:19-24).

People often never forget your service in their time of difficulty. The very fact that I’m writing this article about a mortician is evidence of that fact. The interesting thing is that I didn’t even have that much direct contact with this undertaker. The majority of the interaction between him and my family was with Grandad’s sons and daughter – as a grandson, I mostly observed from the side, quietly listening in. And yet, his acts of service had a ripple effect and were impactful to me. 

Service is like that. When we serve others, not only does the one being served take notice, but others see the good that you’re doing and are impacted. Ultimately, we should be doing those things so that others “may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father in Heaven” (Mt. 5:16). Other than the brief interaction I had with this undertaker, I’m not aware of whether or not he is a Christian – but his kind service that he rendered toward my family reminded me of Jesus and made me want to glorify God.

I likely won’t see this man again, and yet he made an impression on me. I think about Jesus and His time here on earth. His short time of ministry and the limited means of transportation meant that it’s very likely that the majority of people who saw Jesus only ever saw Him once. And yet He left an impression on so many. Let’s go about doing good like Jesus (Acts 10:38), that even in the brief interactions of this life we might bless others.

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