You meet the most interesting people at a funeral

I started giving eulogies for my grandparents’ funerals back in the 1980s. I had attended the funeral of an aged great uncle, and the service was led by a minister who clearly didn’t know the deceased. The preacher made a few remarks about Uncle Walt and then segued into a little sermon that would have applied to me, the person sitting beside me, or the next person to walk in the door. It was that vague.

And so, when my grandmother Bradley died, I stepped up to the pulpit and tried to tell the story of her life and what she meant to us. I have since done that for five relatives. Having a non-clergy person conduct a funeral is sort of like the talking dog–it’s not what he says as much that he does it at all. These performances are emotional high wire walking, but when you can pull it off without falling apart the experience is enormously satisfying.

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Attending that funeral, the next day’s graveside ceremony, and a feast back a my uncle’s house was Kim Williams, an enormously successful songwriter. I am not a huge country music fan, so I didn’t know him, but I sure know his songs. He has had four Number One songs with Garth Brooks: Papa Loved Mama,” “It’s Midnight Cinderella,” “Ain’t Going Down ‘Til The Sun Comes Up” and “She’s Gonna Make It.”

In 1994, Kim was named ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year. His songs have been on over 131 million CDs and tapes, and he is very nice guy. Kim was disfigured in an industrial electrical accident, and is now finishing an autobiography that he hopes to shop around soon. We talked about the differences in pitching a book and pitching a song, and I hope he is as successful with his book as he is his songs.

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