The Funeral

The following is a true story. It happened in rural Georgia. Last week. The names shall remain anonymous, to protect the guilty.

A little boy walked into the little church, unannounced.

It was a weekday. A country church. Clapboards. Tin roof. Way out in the sticks. The kind of church that—until a few years ago—only had window-unit A/C.

The boy greeted the church secretary. He asked if he could meet with the minister. The secretary was taken aback. It’s not every day a little boy walks into the church office alone.

She asked where the boy’s parents were.

“My mom’s waiting in the car,” he said. “I really need to see the preacher.”

When the young man entered the preacher’s office, the minister was at his desk, working on his sermon.

The preacher is old. He’s been preaching since the Vietnam War was only a rumor. He has seen a lot of things in his day. Including the death of a spouse. And the death of his child. But he’s never seen anything like this boy.

“What can I help you with, son?” said the old pulpiteer.

“I need your help, preacher.”

“What kind of help?”

“My dog, Macy, she just died. And I want you to do the funeral.”

The old man looked at the boy. The child had clearly been crying. His eyes were pink and red. The old man’s heart went out to the boy.

“When did your dog die, son?”

“Last night. She was a good dog. She was my best friend.”

The preacher didn’t know what to say. So he didn’t.

“I got her from a shelter when I was a baby. And she was always so good to me. She stuck with me when my dad walked out on us. And she always ate whatever I ate, because even though I wasn’t supposed to, I fed her from the table every night.”

The preacher almost said something, but the boy continued.

“It’s all my fault, Preacher. I left the back gate open. And Macy got out.”

The boy began to cry.

“She ran out into the road, and a car must’ve hit her. Because when my mom was on her way home from work, she found Macy’s body on the road.”

The boy wept even harder.

The preacher could only nod. He could not speak. He hugged the child.

“I want you to do it good, Preacher. I want you to give her the best funeral you ever gave before. I want you to preach and sing and do all you normally do for everyone else.”

The boy stood, then he reached into his little blue jeans and he removed a wad of cash. He placed it on the preacher’s desk. It sat there in a huge wadded mess.

“Will you do it, Preacher?”

The preacher was fighting back tears. “Yes, son. I will.”

The next morning, the preacher showed up at the little boy’s house. There were four other people in attendance. The boy’s single mother. His two siblings. And the boy’s best friend.

The preacher wore a necktie.

The old man stood before a newly dug hole in the ground. Nearby, there was a shovel still stuck in the dirt. The boy was wearing boots that were covered in fresh mud.

The dog was enshrouded in a Buzz Lightyear pillowcase.

The preacher read through the 23rd Psalm. And he delivered the same sermon he’s given for throngs of deceased persons throughout the years. Including his own wife. The preacher began to weep as he recited:

“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away…”

The little boy stood beside the grave and he wept beside the preacher. They were honest tears. The tears of a child. And he held hands with the preacher to help get the old man through it.

When the service was over, they all had lemonade and sweet tea. And little crustless sandwiches, of course. No funeral is complete without little crustless sandwiches.

And the old man sat on the back porch alongside the young boy. And he kept looking at that hole in the ground.

“Preacher,” said the little boy. “Do you think my dog is in heaven?”

“No, son.” The preacher wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

“I don’t think,” said the old man. “I know.”


  1. Mac - May 16, 2023 11:58 am


  2. Terri Holt - May 16, 2023 12:14 pm

    So beautiful! Anyone who has ever lost a fur baby cried over this one! Thank you!

  3. dbdicks430 - May 16, 2023 9:44 pm

    Everyone needs to read Cynthia Rylant’s children’s book Dog Heaven…it will bring great comfort.

  4. rrsfedsmith - May 20, 2023 4:32 pm

    Great story, well-told. Love the writing style.


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