In Matthew 5:4, the Apostle Matthew writes: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Donnie Bobo, funeral director at Hernando Funeral Home, spends a great deal of time comforting those individuals who have lost a loved one and works with that family to honor the last wishes of the deceased.
As a former pastor, Bobo said he feels it's his calling.
"There is such a connection and overlap with what you do as a funeral director and a minister," Bob said. "The two main things you do as a minister is marrying and burying."
Bobo, a former United Methodist pastor who attended seminary at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, said he was blessed with a sensitivity toward all things spiritual from an early age. He was conducting funerals at age seven, although they were for another aspect of God's creation.
"Looking back, when I was a kid, I had a cousin who I grew up with and we conducted a funeral for every animal that died, whether it was a cat, a dog or a bird. I would put on my grandfather's coat and we would have a pet funeral. I actually conducted pet funerals as a child. I turned my grandfather's shed into a pet funeral home. I even had a (funeral) bier. The little pet cemetery was behind the shed. I always had a bent, you might say, a curiosity and fascination with funerals."
The Tishomingo County native grew up in the tiny town of Burnsville, which is located halfway between Corinth and Iuka. As a young adult, Bobo worked at the Cutshaw Funeral Home in Iuka.
Bobo would go on to attend Northeast Mississippi Community College and the University of North Alabama, where he would graduate with a degree in Communication.
Yet, Bobo said felt a higher calling still.
"I took several classes at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson and served as a United Methodist pastor for eight years," Bobo said. "I served on the Oxford East United Methodist Church charge at a little church in Tula."
Bobo said he didn't grow up as a United Methodist but as an independent Methodist.
Now an Episcopalian, Bobo attends Grace-St. Luke's in Memphis and St. Mary's Episcopal Church.
Bobo said in the Mid-South, funerals are still very much traditional.
"We are still very much enamored with funerals in our part of the South," Bobo said. "It's a time for looking back on a person's life."
The aspect and atmosphere of funerals has changed considerably, according to Bobo.
"Funerals used to be somber but they are now a celebration of life," Bobo said. "In all of our services here at Hernando Funeral Home, we include a memorial DVD of family photos, usually wedding photos and happy times."
What I like about it is that it focuses on that person's life. There is something about looking at photographs that bring back memories."
The celebratory aspect of a funeral is comforting to family members and friends.
"As Christians, we know and believe that death is not the end — that there is something beyond that," Bobo said. "Being in the South and the Bible belt, most people believe that."
Increasingly, Bobo said there is now a growing number of individuals who are not connected to a church.
However, they still want a pastor to conduct a funeral.
Bobo has been called upon to step in when that family does not have a pastor or church home.
"Since I'm also funeral director, it's sometimes difficult to wear two hats," Bobo said.
That's when he calls in a minister to suit that family's preferred wishes.
"I try to get someone of their preferred denomination," Bobo said. "From a spiritual standpoint, I will call upon a minister who will perform this very important task with dignity and care. There is a quote from Nehemiah, that we should remember the good in a person's life. We want to remember the good in people's lives. We're able to offer that family comfort and hope."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.