Moving From Me To We BlogMoving From Me To We Blog

One Kind of Story They’ll Remember and Repeat

bagpiper-120wiWhy do some stories stick in our mind? Over a decade ago, a bagpiper I met at a wedding told me this tale, which I’ll re-tell in his voice: “I play at gatherings as varied as parades and resorts at sunset. Last winter a kind friend of mine who is a funeral director, asked me to play at a graveside service for a homeless man he used to smile at each day on the way to work. He could not find any family members or friends to attend.  A mutual friend of ours, a minister, had kindly agreed to provide a simple service for the man at a pauper’s cemetery in rural Kentucky.

I agreed to play yet I was not familiar with the backwoods. Driving out to the service I got lost and harried, looking for signs. I finally arrived an hour late. The minister had already left it.

Only the backhoe driver and the gravediggers remained. They were quietly eating lunch.  I felt badly and apologized to them for my tardiness. Yet I was resolved to honor this man in his death, thinking of the many forgotten people like him who had no one to acknowledge their life at the end.

I got out my bagpipes, walked to the side of the fresh grave and looked down.  The vault lid was already in place.  I paused, looked up at the sky, then held up my bagpipes and began to play.

After a few minutes of playing I glanced over and noticed that the workers had put down their lunches and were listening. Suddenly I felt the numinosity of this moment, a connection with this man and all those who are alone in their passing, so I played with all my heart.

Two songs later I started Amazing Grace, letting myself scan the countryside. That’s when I saw the diggers were quietly weeping.  Soon, so was I. When I finished, I quietly packed up my bagpipes and started walking back to my car, feeling much more at peace with the world.

As I opened my car door I heard one of the workers exclaim, “Sweet Mother of Jesus, I never felt nothin’ like that before and I’ve been digging graves for twenty-two years.”

Lesson: Telling a story with an unexpected twist (and we have all experienced them) may stick in others’ minds so much that they can’t help sharing it with others.

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