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My Dad is the greatest father a kid could have. He's an ordained clergy, with his own church and everything. He's chock full of interesting stories to tell. In the course of his career he's performed hundreds if not thousands of weddings and funerals. Once I asked him, "What's the saddest funeral you've ever performed?" This is what he said:

    "The saddest funeral I've ever performed was the only funeral I've ever cried at. If you die in New York City and no family or friends claim your body, they send you to City Burial."

    "City Burial then puts you in a cardboard coffin and buries you in a city grave, next to thousands and thousands of other graves with tiny headstones that just have a number and no name. The city contracts a clergy to perform a short graveside service and that's it. I was hired to perform one of those services," he said.

    "The deceased was a homeless man who could not be identified. The paperwork listed his name as 'John Doe'. As I stood beside the hilltop grave overlooking the city, reading from a book of prayers, there were two representatives from the city sent as witnesses who stood about 50 feet away, impatiently shifting their weight from one leg to the other. I was the only one who was really there for the funeral, and it was so sad I began to cry. I kept reading as best I could so the witnesses wouldn't notice. Then to wrap things up I bowed my head and began The Lord's Prayer."

    "I was so distracted by the sadness of the scene that I actually forgot the words to The Lord's Prayer. I glimpsed over my shoulder and saw the two witnesses staring at me as if to say, 'Aren't you done yet?' They were far enough away that I don't think they heard me flubbing the words. After a moment I regained my composure and finished the prayer. We all signed the proper city paperwork and went home."

This was quite a few years ago and I'm not sure if New York City still has the same procedures. My father's memory isn't the best and it's possible this didn't even occur in New York City but occurred somewhere else entirely. Still an interesting story.

Of course this story is told with all due respect to the memory of Mr. John Doe.

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