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.

A Texas Preacher Goes to Washington

May 29, 2009

Jim Ost and MonumentsWe walked down the surprisingly narrow hallway, the deep carpet cushioning our steps, as our secret service agent friend led us toward an open door.  “No way.  That can’t be what I think it is…can it?”  Yes, it was.

Who would have ever imagined that a South Texas preacher who grew up in the tiny town of Alamo, Texas, and his bride from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, would be inside the West Wing of the White House, looking through the door of the Oval Office of the President of the United States?  What a country! Read the rest of this entry »

“What’s Going On, Chief?”

August 1, 2008

As I sat in the carport of Chase Bank, waiting for my deposit slip to come shooting out in an air tube, my Ford’s engine began to make chugging, gasping noises. “Oh no”, I thought, “I ran out of gas”. Sure enough, the gas guage read “E”; the car coughed twice, then was quiet. Read the rest of this entry »

Can My Cell Phone Crash a Plane? Really?

May 17, 2008

cell phone airlplaneYesterday afternoon, sitting on an American Airlines airplane, I listened to the flight attendant command us to turn off all cell phones and portable electronic devices right before takeoff.  We have all heard and obeyed this command for years, believing that somehow our cell phones and ipods could somehow bring down a jet. 

But could my cell phone crash a plane?  Really?

Read the rest of this entry »

What is Albino Reading?

January 23, 2008

Book StackI am always reading six or seven books at a time, moving back and forth between them, some for work and some for pleasure.  If I get really engrossed, I may keep reading one while neglecting the others. 

 From time to time, I will elucidate my loyal readers as to what books I am currently devouring.

Here is my current reading list, with a handy link to Amazon for those who want to purchase or read further reviews of each recommended book. Read the rest of this entry »

Love Rekindled After 60 Years of Separation

January 23, 2008

 Russian Couple

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here is a real life romantic tale that will have you running for the kleenex.

 Russian couple Boris and Anna Kozlov had only been married for three days when Boris was called away to rejoin his Red Army unit.  When Boris returned, he discovered that Anna and her family had been exiled to Siberia as part of Stalin’s purge of “enemies of the state”.  Boris frantically searched for her, but his efforts were in vain; she was gone forever…or so he thought.

Sixty years later, in an amazing coincidence, both returned to their home village on the same day.  As Boris got out of his car, he looked up and saw Anna.  Read the rest of this entry »

I Can See Clearly Now, High Def is On

November 12, 2007

Philips lcd hdLast week I shoved all my birthday money into my pockets, drove to Sam’s Club, and emerged one hour later with a Philips 32″ high definition lcd television.  Before leaving the house, I had to promise Esther a new dining room set, which was a small price to pay for such a spectacular upgrade into the world of high definition.  Once I unpacked and installed my new set, I began to wonder how I would get the new high definition signal. Read the rest of this entry »