The Last Ride

September 22, 2014

Last Ride

Four times in the summer of 2013, I had to take the last ride to the graveyard in the passenger seat of a hearse with a casket behind me. Four times I watched as families, husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandchildren cried and said goodbye in the South Texas heat.

Over the years, as I have officiated at the funerals of many Rio Grande Valley people, I have learned the protocol of the last ride to the graveyard. When the funeral ends, I stand at the head of the casket as the family members pay their respects. Then the casket is closed, the pallbearers put on white gloves and carry the casket out into the hot, Texas sun and load it into the waiting hearse. The funeral director then opens the front door of the hearse for me, and, once I climb in, usually hands me a coke to drink.

On one occasion, the funeral director handed me a Diet Coke. As I looked at the can with a confused look on my face, he said, “Sorry, Pastor; Your wife got to me on the way out here.” After another funeral, as the funeral director turned the ignition, Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” started blaring out of the car speakers. His face turned red, and he said, “Sorry; had the hearse washed today.”

Then, on our way to the graveyard, we usually chat together about family, sports and the weather. As the constables race up with their car lights flashing to block off each intersection, the hearse keeps rolling along, the little flags on the hood flapping in the breeze.

After the funeral of a close, family friend, I took a sip of coke, turned to the funeral director and said, “I’m sorry; the lady in the casket is a friend; I’m just going to cry if that’s all right.” And I cried all the way to the graveyard.

Sometimes the funeral director drives by the family home one last time on the way to the graveyard. But, eventually, the hearse pulls into one of the many quiet graveyards in South Texas.

I climb out of the hearse, put on my suit jacket, and quietly lead the pallbearers carrying the casket to the grave, where the family is waiting and sweating under a green tent. Sometimes the funeral director provides cups of water for the assembled family and friends, and, several times this summer, mosquito spray. This is where we read the promises of eternal life through Jesus from the Bible and say our final goodbyes. The hardest part is when the family members gather around the casket for the last time.

Four times in the summer of 2013, I took that last ride to the graveyard in the passenger seat of a hearse with a casket behind me. Four times I watched as families, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers and grandchildren cried and said goodbye in the South Texas heat.

Do you know what I never heard in those moments? I never heard anyone say, “Man I wish he had spent more time at the office.” “I wish he had made more money.””I wish we had a bigger house or a nicer car.” Why? Because, in the end, those things don’t matter anymore. What we have, after that last ride, is love, memories of time spent together, and the hope of heaven.

You have moments to share now. You have love to give now. Please don’t waste it.


Atheism, Race & Buzz Lightyear

October 7, 2010

Brand new episode of Clergy Cousins Podcast available now, featuring special guest book reviewer, Brad Ost, the Michael Jordan of librarians, exciting new book and movie reviews, and a new segment, “When Worlds Collide”. You can either go directly to the mp3 and show notes, or download the podcast from the itunes store.

Ronnie’s Amazing Summer

September 29, 2010

.This summer was very special for Veronica Morales.

It started with a phone call, inviting her girls to vacation Bible school at Iglesia Bíblica. Veronica (“Ronnie”) asked her husband, Joe, if they should send their girls. “Sure”, he responded, so on June 13, Ronnie put her girls, Monika & Melanie, in the car and drove them to the first evening of VBS.

“I was so nervous,” Ronnie said, “I dropped the girls off with their teacher and got ready to leave, when Norma Morales stopped me.” “The moms have their own class, Ronnie; why don’t you stay?” Read the rest of this entry »

Me Too!

September 23, 2010

I was walking across a bridge recently. I spied this guy who looked like he was ready to jump off. So, I thought I’d try to stall him until authorities showed up (or at least until I had time to ready my camera). “Don’t jump!” I said.

“Why not? Nobody loves me.”

“God loves you,” I said. “You believe in God, don’t you?”

“Yes, I believe in God.” Read the rest of this entry »

Clergy Cousins Podcast!

September 10, 2010

Announcing a brand new podcast which is a free-flowing conversation between Jim Ost and Carl Johnson about books, movies, church leadership, politics, the Bible and culture at large. Read the rest of this entry »

God Was There – by Clara Ost

November 8, 2009

Clara at Mexican ConferenceThe scene was our National Conference in Southern Mexico. Breakfast was over, and I joined the crowds of people headed for the auditorium. That morning a veteran Mexican missionary spoke straight from his heart: “My family met the Lord through American missionaries.  We are all fruit of the efforts of American missionaries who left their country and people to come to us.  Now it is our turn to leave Mexico and go to the nations.  We have a debt to pay.”  His passion was contagious.  I whispered, “Yes, Lord, you are here; the Lord of the Harvest is calling for workers”…and I remembered. Read the rest of this entry »

50 Years of Faithfulness

November 2, 2009


1959 was a year to remember. Revolutionist Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, a young Senator named John F. Kennedy was busy running for President, and a new musical called, “The Sound of Music” made its debut on Broadway.  The same year, Mattel introduced a new toy, which they called, “The Barbie Doll”, folks were filling up movie theatres to see “Ben-Hur”, and Alaska and Hawaii became America’s 49th and 50th states.

As 1959 drew to a close, a small wedding was taking place on a snowy Sunday night in the small town of Karlstad, Minnesota, just a few miles from the Canadian border. Read the rest of this entry »