For a funeral, it was a nice one. And it had all the food that goes with it.
Before lunchtime, church ladies warmed the fellowship hall with casserole dishes on card tables. I counted twenty-seven thousand devilled eggs. And there was, of course, fried chicken.
“He was my brother,” said one man with red eyes. “Still remember watching Saturday cartoons with him, seems like yesterday.”
The man didn’t even fill his plate.
The white-haired woman across from me wore a houndstooth skirt suit. She spoke with an accent so thick, I could hardly understand her.
“I know where MY son is,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to joining him one day, ‘cause I know where I’m goin’ when I die.”
She smiled at her own remark.
Would that I were as fearless as my elders.
The widow of the deceased is middle-aged. She is pretty. Stone-faced. She has not shed a single tear.
“We think Mom’s still in shock,” whispered the daughter. “When the hospital called and gave her the news, Mom never even cried.”
The fellowship hall was alive with small-town people. Children were noisy from too much sweet tea, running in circles.
The memorial service ran long. The preacher went over by fifteen minutes.
People filed out doors and crawled into cars. A string of vehicles rolled along a two-lane highway with headlights on.
Oncoming cars pulled over for the procession. One driver hopped out of his truck and bowed his head.
I hope this tradition never dies.
There was graveside scripture. The Twenty-Third Psalm. No matter how old I get, when I hear those verses I’m twelve, listening to Daddy’s eulogy.
“…I will fear no evil,” said the preacher in a slow drawl.
There was a hymn, sung by a man who is a part-time law-enforcement officer, part-time chicken farmer. He had a voice like a cello.
“His farm eggs are the best,” one woman whispered to me. “Much better than storebought.”
He sang four verses of “Amazing Grace.”
When he sang, the daughter of the deceased cried. Her brother cried. Parents, uncles, friends, and cousins cried.
The widow did not. She only stared.
When service was over, people lingered. Most took turns swapping stories.
“Remember when your daddy took me fishing when I’s a kid?” I overheard one man say.
I heard another: “He treated me like I was family…”
The widow sat without moving.
An elderly woman came behind her. She hugged the stiff woman. She was a small lady—five-foot maybe. She embraced and would not let go. It was uncomfortable to watch.
“I love you,” the old woman said.
“Oh, please,” said the widow.
“No,” said the old woman. “I LOVE you.” And the old girl held her tight.
That’s when it happened.
You could hear it from the other side of the cemetery. The widow let out a moan so deep it rattled the grass. It had been a long time coming.
The two-person hug turned into a pile of twenty-six people, including the preacher.
It was a nice funeral.