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FROM THE PULPIT: Ceremony of remembering scheduled in Fort Walton Beach

It was a cold, drizzly day in October. The funeral director, the senior pastor, and I all squeezed into the front seat of the hearse. Conversation was subdued as we drove to the cemetery. The casket in the back of the hearse contained the body of the elderly woman to be interred. 

It was my first year in seminary. I was shadowing the pastor to learn about the various responsibilities of being a pastor. This was my first time riding in a hearse and being part of a graveside funeral.

When we arrived at the cemetery I looked for the people who would have gathered to mourn this woman’s death and give honor to her memory. The only other people in the cemetery that morning were the two men who had dug the grave.

I asked the senior pastor where everyone was. He grimly replied, “We’ll be the only ones here.” I was shocked and greatly saddened. No one? No one would be there to remember her, to give honor to her life, to be saddened by her death.

We solemnly read appropriate scriptures and offered prayers. The casket was lowered into the grave. And we then left the cemetery.

This made a lasting impression on me. A child of God, gone from this earth without anyone to remember. It was sad. It did not seem right in any way.

There is an opportunity available to everyone to keep this kind of scenario from happening again.

For the past five years, Okaloosa County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel has coordinated with local pastors of numerous traditions to gather at the Lazarus Field in Beal Memorial Cemetery to inter those who died the previous year without family or friends, or the means to take care of arrangements for their final resting place.

This time of remembering, as in previous years, takes place Nov. 2, which on religious calendars is also known as All Souls Day.

You are invited to the ceremony of remembering, which will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2 at the cemetery, 316 NW Beal Parkway, Fort Walton Beach.

The cremains of 40 people will be interred there. Their lives will be celebrated, their memories honored, and they will not be forgotten. Their names will be read and then entered into a Book of Life kept at the cemetery office.

I lovingly encourage you to attend to help remember these children of God and commend them to the loving care of God. I am grateful to play even a small part in it once again.

Mark Broadhead

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.

This article originally appeared on Crestview News Bulletin: FROM THE PULPIT: Ceremony of remembering scheduled in Fort Walton Beach