Gone.....

... if you've never been to a burial in The South you should consider your life just that little bit incomplete...... for when they are done right?....... they will be an event that you will never forget as long as you live.........

.... I arrived at the small country church just a little bit early..... but little did I know that the guest of honor had already laid out the events of his burial long beforehand....

.... I stood on the peripherary and watched until Great Aunt Eula caught sight of me....... she approached and I bent down to give her a hug...... "My redhead," she said, "I love you, boy!"..... and with that, I kissed her cheek and said "thank you"......

.... I stayed on the edge of the crowd for the rest of the service..... probably nearly 200 were in attendance - which was amazing in itself...... hell, he hasn't lived in Tennessee for over forty years.... but old friends and relatives seemed to crawl out of the proverbial woodwork this morning.....

... and it was a beautiful September morning..... 10am was the perfect starting time, I guess..... the dew was still wet on the ground - and it hadn't gotten too hot yet......

.... the Marines removed his casket from the herse and placed him on the frame over his grave, and then the mortician who had driven down from Kentucky with him opened his casket for his family to begin the viewing......

.... I didn't press forward when everyone else did.... it somehow seemed more appropriate for me to just stay back, watch, and listen......

.... he lay open for an hour as per his instructions, and then they began his service....

... a woman with a beautiful voice sang "Amazing Grace" a capella, and then the preacher said a few words before she sang "The Marine's Hymn"..... after that, the Marines from Knoxville did their duty and performed the rifle salute and the playing of "Taps"....

.... it was an absolutely beautiful service........ the day was just beginning when we arrived at the tiny country church..... and by lunchtime it was all over.....

.... the oddest thing about the whole scene was how peaceful it was, I guess.... he had been dying a long time and knew what was coming...... so he had planned out every little detail...... sure, there was a sadness present..... but the overwhelming feeling was unlike anything I had ever felt before...... it was a burial, yes, but it wasn't a mourning...... it was silent and still...... everyone standing around with dew and fresh grass clippings on their wingtipped shoes...... it was as if a great book that you had enjoyed reading was slowly being closed.........

.... it was the oddest thing, this burial..........

.... tears were shed, of course...... but the weather was amazing.... the preacher was succinct...... the singer was off-key but perfect in her own way............ and it was such a pleasure to be back in that little family graveyard again......... and I know that sounds odd, but it is true.......... it was the most peaceful that I have felt in a long, long time......

.... he was buried on the right-hand side of his Father...... I noted his birthday -June 10th, 1888...... there were at least four generations of my kin buried in that one small acre plot....... how can so many lives have all come to rest in such a small place?.... I mentioned to one of my cousins just how special that little acre was, and she agreed.......... I suppose that if Robert Frost were to re-work a poem or two, he could say that THAT little acre is where all of "us" would be "run to ground" when the genealogists finally decide to sink their teeth into "us" as a family.......

.... but then, Robert Frost is already dead, isn't he?........ so that nips that in the bud.........

...... after the service was over we all meandered back to the fellowship hall and we all ate lunch together..... 200 folks...... it's another odd Southernism that while the men hem and haw around a grave - and tell stories - the women head to the nearest kitchen and begin working hard......... perhaps it is their backbones that truly are the most wonderful part of living in a southern, rural community.........

..... our women have always been our most prized, treasured, and loved companions............ and they allow us the frivolities of being Men.......... they are our anchors, our grounding rods, our truths........... and while we go off and dream, and do, and wander, they are the Real Stuff of Southern Life......... and they are amazing.........

...... so, today was a very interesting day, folks.........

..... I've buried two people....... and I must have seen a hundred buried.......... but today was the very first time that I saw someone buried and actually felt happy....... not that he was dead, of course........ but because he was honestly the first person that I ever saw buried who was completely ready to go......

.... you know?...... may we ALL achieve such an end.........

.... I wish that you guys could have seen it today........... it was truly a beautiful, beautiful thing......... and I was proud to see it........

.... (and yes, I know that peripherary is not really a word....... but I use it all the time...... so it bloody well should be a word...) .....

by Eric on September 09, 2009 | Bullshit (7) | TrackBack (0) | Thinking
Bullshit So Far

Having grown up going to funerals, they never really bothered me. Some were fancier than others, but we were always dressed in our Sunday best and told to "act right".

It was the receptions, as we always call them, after that were the best part. They seemed to always turn into a family reunion. Lots of food and you got to see everyone, favorite aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins, and more, to laugh and talk with. If it was good weather, it was virtually a picnic.

Now I haven't been to as many funerals as when I was young, the ones now seem to hurt more. And the receptions aren't near as much fun.

Bullshitted by Kath on September 10, 2009 06:41 AM

Never having experienced Yankee funerals, I would say Southern funerals are usually good. I love the food and fellowship part. I'm glad your day went so well.

Bullshitted by Lou on September 10, 2009 07:46 AM

We do food and fellowship in the North too, at least here in Western Pa. Lots of food . . .

Bullshitted by oddybobo on September 10, 2009 10:19 AM

I believe Lewis Grizzard once did a column on the difference between Southern and Northern funerals. I'd only been to a Southern funeral until my Northern Grandma died. At the Southern funerals, we stood as the grave was covered, each throwing a flower in with the casket. The Northern funeral had us high tailing it out of there so the grave diggers that were waiting in the bushes could come out and cover her. I was aghast that we were leaving her. My Northern cousin thought it odd I had such a fit. I took comfort in Mr. Grizzard's column when he pointed out he thought that was a major difference.

Now you want to talk about food... come to an Italian funeral. Good Lord.

Bullshitted by Bou on September 10, 2009 05:33 PM

"Completely ready to go"

Would that we all will be when our time comes, but I suspect I'll be yowling and clawing at the casket top as they lower me down.

Not that I don't look forward to the journey, but think of the things I'll miss seeing here.

Bullshitted by kdzu on September 10, 2009 09:06 PM

Sometimes you write stuff that is just about better than anything else I have ever read in my life. You painted a picture, you created a vibe, you made me (not to sound so cliche) feel like I was there. In a way I wish I was.

Interestingly, I guess, I was thinking about Death today, as I often do, but just in different terms. Our final moment, wouldn't it be nifty if we were to be able to not only predict when it would happen, but how?

People whose last moments are punctuated by heart attacks, strokes, gun shots, injury of sometime...their final moment as they cross over to The Other Side is one of anguish, possibly emotional and physical.

While cancer is a hideous horrible thing, so often we read that the people who die of it are surrounded by their loved ones, and while I would not wish it upon anyone, or upon myself, I was thinking how nice it would be when I die to do so on my terms, you know? Surrounded by those who bring me peace and comfort, to have a chance to make the whole experience as pleasurable as possible instead of one in which there is horrible pain and trauma.

"...silent and still...... everyone standing around with dew and fresh grass clippings on their wingtipped shoes...... it was as if a great book that you had enjoyed reading was slowly being closed........."

That's how I want death to be like for me.

Bullshitted by Erica on September 10, 2009 09:29 PM

I guess I've been to my share of funerals, but after burying my mother and my father, I cry at every funeral I go to, doesn't even matter if I knew them or not, it's like burying my parents again and again, and I am reminded that I am alone....

Bullshitted by holder on September 12, 2009 04:06 PM