I had never worked with Pastor Darryl House before, and any time I asked about him the only answer I got was, “He’s weird, man.” So when I heard he’d be preaching the funeral I was scheduled to work, I couldn’t wait. There was no way to know what to expect other than the previous description of weirdness and that he had incredible posture. I wasn’t sure why that was worth mentioning, but I would eventually find out.
Darryl had been a minister for a long time, but over the years his congregation had dwindled. People were dying, and no one was replacing them, which means by the time I came along he wasn’t coming around the funeral home much. In fact, this would be the only time in my career that I would ever even see the dude. Apparently, though, in his day he was something else.
(“Something else” in this case meaning too much or extra. As my wife uses it, “God knew what he was doing when he made me short and unable to sing because if he hadn’t I’d be something else.”)
Gerald was the other funeral director that day and was in the music room getting the CDs (yes, CDs) together for the service while I arranged the flowers in the front of the chapel. Then, like a vision, there he was: Pastor Darryl House. He entered in slow motion, which it turns out was full speed for him. He was wearing a mauve nine-button suit with matching shoes and tie. His skin was pale, and his hair was brushed back and gloriously feathered—early 90s Pentecostal—and it was the same color as his skin. I didn’t know he had a mustache until I was right there at it.
The way Bro. House stood was the opposite of hunching. He stood so straight that he actually leaned backward at the waist about eight degrees. He didn’t walk so much as he glided, his posture and movement like a trumpet player in a high school marching band—he even had the uniform—but with arms completely stationary. Darryl House had entered the building.
Floating toward me, he began to ask about the order of service, where the family was, how we would be going to the cemetery, the usual preacher questions. Two things from that conversation are worth a mention: it took about ten times longer than it should have, and he ended by telling me he would lead the funeral procession to the cemetery following the service, which seemed harmless at the time. He then left to find the family, and I kept arranging flowers.
The funeral service was uneventful. We played our songs, and he said his things, and we concluded by offering everyone the opportunity to pass by the casket one last time on their way to their cars or the bathroom.
Quick Lesson: There are a variety of different ways to set up the casket during a funeral in most instances (unless in a church that has its own rules). It can be open the whole time with attendees either passing by it at the end or not, or it can be closed and reopened at the end for guests to pass by, or it can be closed and remain closed but reopened for certain people only, or it can just be closed forever. The great thing is, it’s the family’s decision.
Following the last and song it was time to load up and head out. Gerald wanted to take the flowers, which meant he had to leave first for everything to appear magically nice-looking at the cemetery once the family arrived. This left me driving the hearse behind weird Bro. Darryl House. It was fate.
Darryl disappeared briefly before wheeling his little purple, early 2000s Toyota Corolla to the carport where I was parked and stopping abruptly right in front of me. Then we left for the cemetery, which in this case was about thirty funeral-procession minutes away. A sheriff’s deputy escorted us through town to the left turn at Hwy 119. From there, we were on our own. It was up to Pastor Darryl to get us the rest of the way.
Everything was fine for the first mile or so, but then Darryl House’s little Corolla began to drift to the right onto the shoulder of the highway gradually until his tire hit the rumble strip (the little ridges in the asphalt that cause your car to vibrate telling you that you’re running off the road, and, yes, I just had to look that up). He then eased back onto the road. Crisis averted. A couple of miles later, he did it again until the vibrations once again called him back to the correct lane. Darryl then repeated this process three more times over the next two miles correcting course every time—every time except the last one. You see, on the last one, just as he had done with his posture so many years ago, Darryl House overcorrected. Upon feeling the vibrations on his passenger side, he eased back over into our lane, but then he just kept easing, crossing the center line into the whole wrong side of the road where he would drive for a solid three minutes. Thankfully it was not a busy road. By this time, I’d put some distance between the front end of the hearse and the good Reverend’s Corolla because, if Darryl was going to hit someone head-on, I didn’t want him taking out me and the whole funeral procession.
As he drove with his whole car on the wrong side of the road, he began to drift again but not back toward us. No, Bro. Darryl was drifting further left. He went over the line, ignoring the warning vibrations this time, and continued until his little Corolla was completely on the opposite shoulder traveling in the wrong direction. He did this for about a mile, seemingly without a care in the world, until an oncoming pickup convinced him to cross all the way back into our lane.
Up ahead, I could see it: the end of 119. All we had to do was get there alive and turn right, and we were practically at the cemetery. That’s exactly what we did with Pastor Reverend Darryl House the leading the way like he hadn’t just driven all over the road trying to get us there. He is weird, man.
When we arrived, the son of the deceased who was in the car directly behind me approached.
“You got a front row seat for that show, huh? What was going on?”
“I have no idea. I just knew I didn’t want to be too close.”
“I get that! Is he on something?”
All I could do was shrug, and that’s not the answer you want to have to give when someone asks you if the preacher is on something at a funeral, but that’s where we were.
Skip ahead to the committal (burial) service. The casket sat neatly on the lowering device. The family sat neatly under a 15’ x 15’ funeral home tent. Pastor Darryl read something from Revelation, probably, and began to pray over the deceased and the family and the friends. And then he said, “Let us pray as you taught us,” which is code for, “Everybody say the Lord’s Prayer in weird, monotone unison.” And being good southerners, we did just that. Somewhere along the way, though, Bro. House transitioned from the Lord’s Prayer to the 23rd Psalm, so, while we were all asking for our daily bread, he was walking through the valley of the shadow of death and fearing no evil. Luckily, this was the Bible Belt, so we jumped seamlessly into Psalm 23 ending the whole thing by declaring that we would all dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
When we finished we heard a faint, distant “amen.” We opened our eyes to see that, during our lengthy mishmash biblical recitation, Pastor Darryl House had been walking to his car. He gave us a nod, hopped in, and drove off—no dismissal or farewell or anything. I quickly gathered myself, spoke to the family, and dismissed the crowd as the little purple Corolla pulled into the main road, for the moment on the correct side.