“What do you think they’ll have?”
“I think you could guess just as easily as I could”
- fried chicken
- sliced ham
- green beans
- macaroni & cheese
- potato salad
- deviled eggs
- congealed salad – multiple varieties, but at least one green and one pink
- banana pudding
And, yes, my sister and I nailed it. The menu was exactly as predicted. And it was comforting and tasty – just as funeral food is meant to be.
But, backing up a bit…
Thursday evening I got a call from my father that my Uncle Raymond Johnson passed away after a prolonged illness. Uncle Raymond was 93, and was a quiet, peaceful man who lived his entire life in the town of Calhoun Falls. Uncle Raymond had married my father’s oldest sister, Mary, who had passed away several years ago. They had one son, Sherwin, who still lives in the area. The funeral was Saturday, so I picked up my sister, Glynda. then my parents for the drive down to Calhoun Falls.
I’ve written here before about Southern funeral traditions. Those were in full force here. We joined the family for the aforementioned meal at noon, had family visitation at 1:00, then the funeral at 2:00. We talked about some of these, and how that some may appear unusual to outsiders, traditions can be a real comfort, especially in a time of grief. You know what to expect. As we drove from the church to the cemetery, we also talked about how some of these traditions are fading, such as the funeral motorcade and other drivers pulling over as a sign of respect. Calhoun Falls has not succumbed to the traffic that makes such niceties an annoyance.
The service itself was a nice remembrance of the life of my uncle. The words were well chosen, and were a comfort. Some pastors have a gift for saying the right thing, and that seemed to be the case today with all that were participating.
My cousin had asked if I would serve as a pall bearer. I had done this once before for another elderly relative, but didn’t remember much about it. I just remember marching in, sitting, then marching out with the casket to the hearse. There was no “bearing” to be done and the role was largely ceremonial, as the casket was slid directly into the hearse from its cart.
This was different. We lifted the casket from the church steps down to then into the hearse. When we arrived at the cemetery there was a rather long walk from where the hearse was parked to the grave site. The casket was heavy, even with six of us carrying it; the footing was uncertain with the rain-soaked ground and added obstacles of grave markers; and a couple of the pall bearers were themselves on up in years. I was having difficulty, so I knew they were struggling.
When we reached the grave there were two metal slats crossing the abyss. My thought was that we carry the casket with three on either side of the grave then lower it onto the slats. The funeral director instead had us place one end on one slat then sort of slide/carry it toward the other slat. The position was awkward, and carrying the heavy load was even more difficult. I had several moments of panic as I could see someone slipping and this thing landing on end in the open grave.
Fortunately, we accomplished our task successfully and without embarrassment. I fulfilled my duties as pall bearer. We stayed a few minutes talking to cousins as a misty rain fell over the cemetery, then parted ways until the next family gathering.