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“You’re a little crazy.” The man with the red polo eyed Melrose.

“You mean to tell me that you’re going to spit on my brother’s grave?” Melrose was more than a little upset.

The receptionist glanced around the waiting area, but everyone else sat in their little cubbies, viewing their private channels. “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to lower your voice. And no, I’m not spitting on anyone. I’m just recognizing that your brother – Carleton, you said his name was? – isn’t a member here – or rather, wasn’t – so it would be rather untoward of me to dedicate Club resources to his funeral.”

“I want to see your manager.” Melrose smoldered.

“Of course, sir. If you don’t mind taking one of the cubbies, I will text your booth when she’s available.” The man in the red polo gestured to a cubby labeled 21 in digital numbers.

“Hey, that’s good luck, right? That’s blackjack.” Melrose mentioned hopefully.

“I wouldn’t know.” The man in red concentrated on his pad, flipping numbers in what may have been a game and may have been work.

Melrose sat in the cubby and accessed his private channel from the cloud. He made sure to publicize his rather contentious opinion of the Club and their lack of love toward his dear brother. Several responses of support popped up from close friends and family, as well as a few people who’d never had any love for the Club in the first place. “They’ve always been exclusionist preds,” quipped a distant friend known for his love of the common person.

An IM popped up from Stellar Nocte: “Please report to the reception desk for guidance to the manager’s office.”

The man in the red shirt smiled as Melrose approached. “Right this way, sir.” He got out from behind the desk and led the guest down a long, tall hallway filled with strange banners that featured trumpets, various kinds of leaves, and words like, “Peace!” and “Smile!” Finally the man gestured to a glass door that bore the words Sarabell Jansen, Event Coordinator. “I’ve IM’ed her that you’d be arriving soon. Go ahead in.” And with that, the man in the red polo retreated to his desk.

Melrose knocked once before entering. The room held a large dark desk strewn about with seven or eight pads, all open to very different apps. The desk itself lit up with a map of the complex, each room keylinked to at least five different options. Behind the desk stood a shelving unit of paper books in various states of disrepair. Beige carpeting and warm lighting created a calming effect. Soft burgundy chairs beckoned. A few framed prints showed Club luminaries.

A woman in a simple cream-colored shirt and golden curls in her hair offered her hand. “You must be Melrose. Dafydd sent to me that you’d be coming. Come in, please, have a chair.”

Melrose accepted the hand.

“I’m Sarabell, the event coordinator here. I understand you’d like to make use of some Club resources?”

“Um, yeah. I suppose. The guy down at reception was a real jerk. He said that you wouldn’t do anything for my brother.”

Sarabell gave a noncommittal nod as she returned to her side of the desk, turning off the map on her way. “Dafydd doesn’t always communicate well, it’s true.”

“You should really find someone better for reception then.”

“Melrose, how we conduct ourselves in the Club doesn’t always make sense to those who aren’t members. Dafydd is a member here and still getting his feet under him. I’d thank you to not insult Club policies while you’re looking for something from us. That just seems smart, doesn’t it?” Sarabell took her chair and gestured to one of the burgundy ones opposite her. “Now, tell me your situation, please.”

Melrose bit back a comment on smart policies and stupid policies as he took a seat. “All right. My brother, Carleton, disconnected last week. I’d like a representative from the Club to speak at his funeral.”

Sarabell repeated her shallow nod and reached for one of the pads, accessing a membership app. “What’s his full name?”

“Carleton Banes.”

“Primary online persona?”

Banes to the Bone, server Sands, dedicated L-V Oceans.”

Sarabell punched in the data and read from her app. “I see here. It looks like he visited some of the open houses the Club hosted and even expressed interest in seeing a Club specialist about membership. They met twice about three years back, but he never showed up at any of the required new membership events. One of our patrons paid all his dues, so he was free to come in no charge, but he never showed.” She huffed. “I guess that patron really wasted his payment on your brother, huh?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry. It’s been a long day already.” Sarabell set the pad down. “So, tell me again what you’re looking for.”

“I want someone from the Club to speak at Carleton’s funeral.”

“Why?”

Melrose shook his head in exasperation. “Because he was a good man.”

“So? What does that have to do with the Club?”

“Well, he always looked up to the Club and thought it was good. And that’s what should happen at funerals. Someone from the Club is supposed to talk. It’s the way things are done.” Melrose wrinkled his nose. “It’s not that big a deal. Just send someone out so we can get going with the funeral.”

“And what is the Club rep supposed to do at the funeral?”

“You know. Club stuff. Talk about how he was a good person.”

“So you want someone from the Club to show up, look good, and make your brother look good by association?” Sarabell laced her fingers together.

“No. It’s just that someone from the Club is supposed to do that kind of thing, aren’t they?”

“Let me say this back to you and see if I’m getting everything right.” The woman cleared her throat before starting. “You want the Club to dedicate resources to a man who had a free check and refused to use it. You want a Club rep to appear at the funeral and make it look like we approve of this man, even though he denied being involved with us. In short, you’d like us to support a lie.”

Melrose felt his fingers curling into fists. “No! Just do what you’re supposed to do and help me!”

“I mean you no offense. I don’t like speaking ill of the dead, but I’m not going to lie about the dead, either. And I’m not going to support you in a lie. Carleton didn’t want anything to do with the Club in life, so we aren’t going to make it look like he did in his death.”

Melrose pounded his fist on the desk. “You’re supposed to be all these good people that always help out! And now that we need you, you just push us away!”

Sarabell frowned. “We tried reaching out. He said no. We’ll honor his wishes even in death.”

Melrose stormed out of the office. He stomped up the long hallway with the strange banners. He flung an offensive finger at the receptionist. At home, he accessed his private channel and put up every vile thing he could think of about the Club.

Back at the office, Sarabell sighed and offered up a prayer to the Patron. Everyone wanted the Club’s approval in death, even though so few seemed to want to do anything with it in life. She hated saying no… but she knew she couldn’t lie.

She really wished she was better at speaking the truth in love, though.

 

My church body has a general policy that its pastors will not provide funerals for people who are not members of their churches. This is not a judgment on that person’s faith; it is a recognition that if a person wanted nothing to do with the church in life, the church won’t have anything to do with his death. This can cause a lot of hurt feelings, both because those who aren’t members don’t seem to ever get it, and we don’t always explain our reasoning in a loving way. This reality has hit me recently, and this story is a way of me sorting out and trying to find a better way of explaining…

…and realizing that no matter how winsome the explanation, no matter how patient, those who do not understand Christ will never get how the church could say no to someone who has denied Christ in their actions. 

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