Golf is now over 510 years old, having been played officially throughout Scotland since 1502. Most of the earliest references to golf were about attempts to ban it or to condemn the golfers. On 6th March 1457 in Edinburgh, King James II banned ‘ye golf’ because it was more popular than archery.
As a teenager, I golfed religiously three times a week at Langara Golf Course in Vancouver. To prove my dedication, I even sometimes golfed in the snow. I also used to caddy for my father, which was a great way to spend quality time with him.
Years later, my golf game has its moments of glory, as well as many reminders of how far I have fallen. I took part in a golfing tournament a while ago with forty undertakers and one hundred and ten clergy. On the second hole of the tournament, I sunk a forty-five-foot putt. Delusions of being the next PGA superstar filled my mind until I missed a four-foot putt on the very next hole. Golf can be very humbling, and is therefore good for the soul, or so they tell me.
In the twenty-eight years since I was ordained, I have taken many funerals. Virtually every funeral involves a funeral director, sometimes called a family services counselor. I have found them to be very personal, decent individuals. It was not until I started golfing with funeral directors that I really came to know them personally. Over the eighteen holes, the pastors and undertakers shared the inevitable victories and defeats. It really helped us realize how much we had in common, though the funeral directors are usually better golfers.
Both funeral directors and clergy are usually called upon in times of sorrow and death. While some people try to do their own services, most Canadians still look to professionals to help them through this most difficult of times. Both pastors and undertakers are often misunderstood. People sometimes don’t realize that undertakers and clergy are ordinary human beings much like themselves. I remember once when a Deep Cove resident was shocked to see me shopping at Safeway, because they didn’t think that clergy actually shopped.
One of the privileges of having served for the past 31 years has been to walk with North Shore families and individuals through the key transitions of life: birth, marriage, and death. With one local family, I had the privilege of burying four members. Families during funerals will open up and share their hearts in ways that you rarely otherwise see.
Death is the great leveler. No matter how we try to avoid it and deny it, death catches up with every family. We can put it off for a while through healthy eating and exercising, but sooner or later we all face the grim reaper.
Both funeral directors and clergy can make a big difference in helping families navigate these painful waters. I am grateful that I can remind grieving people that there is a bridge over troubled waters, that Jesus made a way and prepared a resting place for them. I am grateful that death does not have the final say.
My prayer for those reading this article is that each of us will find that bridge over troubled waters.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
– previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News
-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada
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