I still remember what my father told me about sneezes.
‘A sneeze is the soul trying to escape the body.’ he said. ‘If you see a person sneeze, say ‘God bless you’ to keep it from getting out.’
My dad was a man of manners, and I tried to live up to him. Perhaps that’s why I became a pastor. My ministry was always respectful, forever caring. I tried to see the best in people.
I took care of my flock from baptism to burial. If someone sneezed in church, we’d all shout, ‘God bless you’.
When I died, it was peacefully, amongst friends and family. They gathered round my bed, and brokenly whispered ‘God bless you, pastor.’ If I could, I would have smiled.
The whole county came to the funeral; peers and parishioners in their hundreds.
Tears were shed, hymns were sung, and as they lowered my casket into the ground, I braced for the Holy Spirit to take me home. But it never did.
I waited and I waited, conscious of every passing moment, every movement through the soil. Eventually I began to wonder what I’d done wrong. When the new pastor arrived, I realised.
He adopted my mannerisms, you see; tried to live up to me as I did with my dad.
My father taught me a courtesy. I turned it into a curse.