It was yet another funeral in the tiny white church that has watched over many Stephenson comings and goings. I am always amazed at the size of our family. Even though the church is small, most families would fill a row or two, or at the most 4 or 5 and all the aunts, uncles and cousins would be included in the procession. Not so with the Stephensons. For us they mark off at least half the church and then make sure that only the closest of the closest kin is seated. Even with all that effort there will not be room if everyone shows up.
After the service, we filed out into the graveyard where the rest of the family lies waiting for us to come to them. I’ve never been one much for graveyards and tombstones. The whole idea terrifies me. But this day was a little different. Due to a pressing personal issue for which I had no answers, I really wanted to talk to my mother in law. Don’t get excited. I do not have conversations with dead people and I’m well aware of how God feels about that. I was simply feeling the need to talk to Shirley. We buried her way too early and I didn’t get the chance to mine from her all the information I needed about taking care of the boys (a story for another day).
While the graveside service continued, I kept looking around trying to find her. Just about the time I had convinced myself that I must be standing on top of my beloved mother-in-law, my husband came to the rescue by pointing out her stone. After breathing a sigh of relief, it then took every ounce of self control I could muster not to leave the group of mourners and fling myself on Shirley’s grave. I know, I know. I sound like a lunatic. But raising children will do that to you.
You will be relieved to know I kept my senses and stayed with the normal people. I suppose I realized that I already knew what Shirley would tell me and somehow in that moment it seemed to be enough. In a way I turned a page right then and there in my little situation. I knew what I knew and it would have to see me through. Suddenly I became desperate for a breath of fresh air and humor. Funerals have a way of taking the fun out of living if you know what I mean.
As we turned from the grave and walked towards the Fellowship Hall, we ran into the funeral director. A long-time friend of our family, he reached out to greet us with a hand-shake. Without warning, humor bobbed to the surface like a pond turtle gasping for air. As the director reached out to take my hand he exclaimed how good it was to see us all again. He then issued the one-liner for the day: “Ya’ll come see us real soon”. Before I could think twice I responded “I’m sure we all will”. In a split second his comment opened my eyes to the obvious- this group was thinning out and my generation was next in line for the trip. Indeed, we’ll see ya’ real soon!
I’m still chuckling over the invitation from my funeral director friend and also hoping he didn’t hear my reply. I’m ready to “go” but I’m not really feeling the love for actually going.
Between now and the time I “go”, I’m not going to invest a great amount time worrying about how to avoid the funeral home or my friend the director. The visit is inevitable. The challenge is to be as alive as I know how in every second of my time-sensitive story. I don’t know how many trips around the sun remain for me, but I intend to squeeze everything I can into and out of this gift of earthly time travel.
The ideal trip will be filled with changes and challenges, victories and defeats, questions and answers or questions without answers, and of course laughter and tears. My mind is set on seizing every day and living fully into the gift that it offers.
When the end comes, and it will you know, I pray that someone who has read this article will call my family and have them bring in the Grand Ole’ Opry singers to perform what I now believe is the perfect funeral song: “Ya’ll come”. Yep, it’s a real song. And a fitting end for one like me who relishes finding humor in very strange places. It kind of breaks up the day you know.
Ya’ll come now. Can’t wait to see ya’!
(Carolyn’s Dare: Follow this link to hear my new favorite funeral song and try to imagine the reaction-or perhaps revival-that might happen if my family is brave enough to follow through on my dare) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXBK7sTvsTI