They brought condolences, comforting words and big strong hugs; pink, fluffy jello dotted with marshmallows, tiny chocolate cupcakes and crunchy green sweet pickles the day we laid my mother to rest.
Neighbors came and friends, relatives from all sides of the family, the girl who lived next door ages ago, the man who built the nursing home where my mother made her home for a dozen years, the great-grandson who—as she lay dying—asked if he could pet her. Her Ladies Aid, escorted out first, before pallbearers and family members, who stood in a single line for us to walk by: a tradition stretching far back to the years they did the same for my grandmothers, great-aunts, old friends.
It was a day to honor my mother. To do right by her.
Funerals in small rural towns are where folks come together, the one for a slight, grey-haired, woman who spent a lifetime caring for her eight children no less important than the one for a prominent cattle feeder who spent a lifetime caring for yards and yards filled with hungry critters. All of our graves are dug six feet deep. The bell is rung, one time for each of the 12 disciples, and the casket goes out feet first. For all, the same.
My daughter and I attended a funeral once at my hometown. Worshippers packed the church and even though the sky was overcast and rain drizzled down, scores of folks paid their respects outside.
“There won’t be this many at my funeral,” I whispered to my daughter.
“Don’t worry,” she promised me. “We’ll pay them to come.”
As I related this to my friend Loren, he said, “Oh, you won’t have to pay people to come to your funeral, LaRayne.”
His words were instantly reassuring to my fragile ego.
“Buy ice cream,” he said. “Everyone likes ice cream. They’ll come for that.”
There’s comfort in the knowledge that when the day arrives for me to be put in a box and set on display, that Jason will make me look as good as he possibly can. That one of my church friends will usher folks in to sit down, and another will ring the bell, one time for each of the 12 disciples. That the pastor will pronounce the benediction, and we’ll all—all but me—go down to the basement where the men will be handing out hugs, and the women will serve pink, fluffy jello dotted with marshmallows, tiny chocolate cupcakes, and crunchy green sweet pickles.
And ice cream. If my children do their momma right.