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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.

Zola on tombstone

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.

purple casket

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.

I did.

The funeral was at the church.

Kerrs Creek Baptist 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.

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