John Clark was a loved husband and father, a successful business owner, and an admired coach for Little League baseball teams. Three weeks after his 53rd birthday, as they sat with the funeral director to arrange the details of his funeral, his wife and children readily agreed on one quality that characterized his life: patience. Margaret, John's wife of 32 years recalled how many times she had kept him waiting and then noted, "No matter how late I made us, he never seemed irritated."
The second morning after John's death, two men from the local Ward (congregation) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came to the funeral home to dress John in his temple garments. First received when he was sent out as missionary at age 19, John had faithfully worn the temple garments throughout his adult life.
Two nights after John died, Margaret and their six sons, five daughters-in-law, and 12 grandchildren gathered at the funeral home for calling hours. Throughout the evening, family members, fellow congregants from their LDS ward, business associates of John and his sons and neighbors streamed into the funeral home to pay their respects to John and provide support for his family.
John's funeral began at 10am the following morning at the family's Ward, led by their bishop. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has no paid clergy; all bishops and elders serve voluntarily, just as John had done during the years he served as the bishop until his illness necessitated his resignation. Clearly at his funeral and visitation, people in the ward, including the current Bishop, still valued John's leadership and spiritual maturity.
The funeral service began with an opening hymn and a prayer offered by the Bishop, in which he thanked Heavenly Father for the life of John Clark and his faithfulness to family, community and Church. The Bishop prayed for the family's comfort, and especially asked for comfort and strength for Sister Margaret.
Several men from the ward spoke at John's funeral including the bank president who talked of John's unquestionable integrity in business dealings. John's oldest son counted up the number of Little League games his dad had coached; with his coaching six boys over a period of almost 18 years, he surmised his dad had coached in more than 500 baseball games. "Now that's a lot of testosterone," he quipped.
Bishop Mark Flanders offered his remarks-both as a friend, business associate and Church leader who followed John in ministry in the Ward. Clearly, Bishop Flanders felt the grief of his friend's death and expressed his sadness in his message to family and friends. "We know Heavenly Father has a glorious life ahead for us when we cross over as our brother has done," Bishop Flanders explained. "But the loss we feel on this side is real; saying goodbye is never easy."
After a final prayer, the congregation stood together to sing the familiar hymn, "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again." Funeral directors then stepped to the front of the chapel where they ushered mourners past John's open casket and to their cars to await the funeral procession to a nearby cemetery.
The graveside service was simple and brief: a prayer, a reading from the Book of Psalms and a song sung together. Then, the mourners offered their condolences to Margaret and the rest of the family, and those whose schedule allowed returned to the Ward for a luncheon prepared by the ladies of the congregation. In all, more than 125 people shared the meal and exchanged stories about how John's life had touched their own.
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prescribes some guidelines about the conduct of funerals, much of the detail is left to the discretion of Bishops serving specific Wards. However, for more information, consult the following resources.
- What Happens When I Die?
- Ashton, J. & Ashton, D. (2008). But If Not: When Bad Things Threaten to Destroy Good People. Salt Lake City, UT: Cedar Fort.
- Nelson, R. M. (1997). The Gateway We Call Death. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.