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funerals, cakes, and casseroles

February 23, 2015

funeralfoodWhat is up with all the funerals lately? I’m kidding. The past week has been unusual, though. And yes, unusual equals sad, too. I’m not a total jerk.
I mean, people die. It’s part of life. Sometimes though, it seems like death is everywhere. It feels like more than we can handle.
A friend’s grandmother, Jewel, passed away after a long, full life. She wasn’t sick, but she was prepared to die. She’d told them for years she was ready. She was an artist, she met her grandchildren, and she loved God. She was proud of her family.
Her service was short and sweet and attended by her closest family. It was at the church where she was a member. The pastor knew her well and told stories about her life. She’d painted the giant painting hanging above the baptismal pool. The church ladies served us lunch afterward in the fellowship hall. Do you want to guess what we had?
The same friend’s aunt died two days later. She wasn’t sick either, and it was completely unexpected. She leaves behind a family, who is stunned and deeply saddened by the empty space she left behind. These women were from different sides of my friend’s family, but they knew each other. They were both from the same small town.
At the funeral home for the aunt’s visitation, there was another service taking place at the same time. Now, if there’s one place we shouldn’t be surprised to find the deceased, it’s there, but bear with me here. This place was packed. I can almost guarantee everyone in this small town dropped by. They were all mingling in the hall between the two open caskets, chatting about the shock and sadness. They’d walk out of one room and go across the room to the other guest book and sign and get in line. I guess it was convenient?
As an outsider, just there to support a friend, it was mildly entertaining. I wouldn’t ever find joy in sorrow, but the culture of it all is so interesting. Traditions come to an end. At the very least they change. Some people are comfortable with it all. Some wandered through the funeral home wide eyed and awkward. Bowls of mints and boxes of tissues on every little table, and hushed tones abound. There was this one lady who didn’t understand a hushed tone, though. She talked loudly and laughed like she was trying to win a contest. She stood off to the side gossiping and making jokes. Maybe that was her nervousness coming through. We all have our ways.
An entirely different friend experienced loss on a whole other level. One of her 5th grade daughter’s friends, a beautiful, sweet little girl, lost her battle with cancer this week. It’s a part of death I can’t imagine and don’t ever want to realize. Gone too soon.
Aren’t they all, though? A lengthy illness passes too quickly. Sudden deaths are wrought with unsaid words. Children shouldn’t ever die really, and when they do, the pain and reality of a life cut short is more than we can bear. It’s hard to understand the purpose.
Hug your people, people. Hold that little hand a few minutes longer. Tell them you love them, and make sure they believe it.
And it was fried chicken, obviously. I think I counted 13 casseroles, and at least ten had cream of something soup. There was even one that I think was just cream soup with buttered crackers on top. No veggies. Oh, and there were cakes. Red velvet, chocolate, pineapple upside down with coconut and cool whip, and pound cake. They brewed gallons of sweet tea, and we drank it right up. We toasted our loved ones and laughed at the memories. Here’s to yours, too. Cheers, y’all.

*originally published in The Metro Spirit, Augusta GA on 2/12/15

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2015 9:17 pm

    An outsider?….I think not. You can tell a lot about a community by what happens in the funeral home. People leave the world of the living when they walk in the door and then, after spending some time in the world of the dead, go back to their lives. It teaches us about transitions… and coming attractions for all of us.
    Great story.

    • Jenny permalink*
      February 23, 2015 11:02 pm

      I thought about you at the funeral home! One of these days I’m gonna pop in while shopping in Aiken. Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. February 25, 2015 1:03 pm

    That would be great. I always like to meet people I read, so I can read their words in their voice. Small problem though….I moved my office from Aiken to Lexington. It’s right next to a John Deere Tractor store, so if you need a new lawnmower for the man…..

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