From the time I can remember we went to funerals. It started when I was very, very young.
I suppose this may be why I look at death differently than many people.
Oh, I grieve, I get sad, I cry.
I miss the ones I’ve known and loved who are gone.
I’m not heartless.
But, dying is a part of living, and as my friend’s dad said, “…everyone gets a turn….”
At any rate, there were many. The countless hours spent at the church included time for funerals, and time in the grave yard.
The first funeral I remember was Lloyd Cunningham’s.
I had never seen a dead man in a casket before. His shoulders were the broadest I’d ever seen; they touched the sides of the coffin. It was plum colored with a veil over the top. It gave his face a faraway look.
I suppose, he was far away.
He was buried high UP on a hill on his home place, back in Waterloo Hollow in a tiny plot filled with his ancestors.
To get there we had to cross a wide stream, and when we crossed a man carried me over, my legs were too short to make the stones. Mother had on a hat as always and wore a brown dress. The four of us were shined, cleaned, and polished to our best.
He, the old man in the coffin, was Charlie’s friends’ grandpa.
I knew I was supposed to be sad, be quiet, and behave.
The funeral was at the church.
Daddy preached the funeral in the church and said a few words and read the Bible at the grave. I don’t remember him ever coming to church, this dead man. His grandchildren and daughter-in-law did, but never him. I wondered why someone who never came to a church would want a funeral in one. But then, I guess he didn’t have much to say about it. My guess is that his son or more likely his daughter-in-law made all the plans.
I am haunted by little, but I remember this as vividly as any other thing in my childhood.
It puzzles me.
I think it prepared me for the life I was to lead as a preacher’s kid. Yes, yes, I know all the jokes But in a church, no matter the size, someone is always dying.
There’s a funeral every two weeks or so. We’d gussie UP, get ready, and pay our respects.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “…Oh death, where is thy sting, oh grave, where is thy victory…”, well, I’d at least have a jar full.
Did it harden my heart to death? No, but it made it less fearful.
Growing UP with grief, and learning how to grieve wasn’t a bad thing at all.