I haven’t been to any big city funerals, and to only a few big church funerals, but I can tell you that a funeral in a small country church is a good way to go home. A good way home for the member who has passed, for their family and for that other family of friends, neighbors and fellow church goers. The intimacy of connection between the passed and those present lend a personality to the ceremony reflective of the shared relationship. Have you ever been to a funeral where you felt and people said out loud, “that was a wonderful funeral”?
Saturday was clear, sunny and warm; just the kind of day we have been impatiently waiting for. The roads were empty as I made my way along side fields that are still to wet to plow, and lawns just greening. Birds sang their praises to the beautiful day and potential mates.
The church parking lot was full and the long drive lined with cars, not a common sight anymore with our aging congregations and the diaspora of rural youth to anywhere else. Families with young children flitted about the church steps, letting the youngsters burn off their figgity energy before the somber service.
I wondered when I saw the local funeral director, what it is like to be a more familiar face at our areas funerals than any of the Pastors, and what is it like to bury so many of your friends, neighbors and classmates.
This funeral had a different air to it from the beginning. The folks who planned it allowed for Suzie’s personality to shine her bright light over the traditional trappings. Each person received a brightly colored packet faced with a recent photo of Sue beaming out to us. Inside was a story she had written and a pack of seeds.
Inside the family, or perhaps Suzie herself, had chosen an open casket service. These days that is also uncommon, but Suzie’s passing was sudden and unexpected, so many probably wanted to say a personal good bye.
The casket itself was a gift, a unique, personal gift to Sue and those of us who loved her. No flashy burnished, and brassy vessel, but a simple handcrafted box, built by her brother, to cradle her for all time. Folks were invited to inscribe a message on the sides to accompany her.
The flower arrangements were bright and beautiful and one basket was a loving bouquet of all of Suzie’s favorite picnic items, a memory of the decades of family outings on the lake.
The church reception hall was adorned with hundreds of photos of Suzie’s life, and mementos of her many accomplishments. In every picture her radiant smile shone out from infancy to elderhood. Suzie never got old. She was most often accompanied by a pet.
I could go on and on. Suzie lived a life affected by a significant physical limitation but did not live her life as on afflicted. She was given the freedom to do what she could, and she did a great deal more than many folks.
She was my friend. A better friend to me than I to her, and I will miss her.
“Suzie, I will see you in time, and you are with me always.