|Matt, Andy, Philip, Mark|
There's nothing like it!
This past September our Uncle Bub Gaines left this earth on his journey to eternity.
90 years of life as we know it here, ended. Most folks would say, "he had a good long life, it was time." But, it's never a good time for those left behind that loved deeply.
We got the call and quickly proceeded to Illinois, his home all his life. Friends, relatives and the small cemetery are there. He would rest beside his parents that passed away many years ago.
Funeral plans were made over the phone during the rainy, cloudy day drive from Tulsa to Illinois. A huge rainbow finally filled the sky as we approached St. Louis. That was helpful!
We moved into my sister and brother-in-laws home for the duration of funeral week. We met with the local funeral director and finalized the details. We assured the professionals that the funeral would be small since he'd been living at the Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois for the past few years and before that had been confined to his house with round- the- clock caregivers for several years.
Surely, a single, elderly WWII veteran's passing would not garner much attention.
Andy flew from CO to officiate, Philip flew from TX to be a pallbearer. (He brought Thompson along, age 3 as a delightful distraction.) Nephews Mark and Matt Leischner rearranged their schedules to also attend. Close friends were also called to serve.
I was convinced that we would experience a tiny intimate family gathering and that would be just fine.
Boy, was I wrong.
Saturday morning the hearse arrived at the Concord Christian Church and we watched those very dignified men prepare for the visitation one hour before the service. It was just US, saying good-bye. It was hard and sweet and so appropriate.
An hour passed and the designated time arrived.
People started pouring into that beautiful little white clapboard country church, standing in line filling up the aisle.
Faces from 40-50 years ago appeared. There were more wrinkles and weight, but after a few hints we were quickly transported back in time. Old school chums, neighbors, church members, long lost relatives and Bub's co-workers filed in. Some of his old buddies were wheeled down the aisle in their wheel chairs, unable to speak but determined to attend. After an hour of shaking hands, hugging and shedding several tears the service began.
Andy spoke about sacrifice, his description of his great-uncle, I read my prepared eulogy, we sang hymns, prayed and told stories. It was tender and so honoring. We were reminded that there is a "time and season for every purpose under heaven."
I looked around as we sang Amazing Grace and then followed the casket down the aisle and out the door.
THAT LITTLE CHURCH WAS FILLED! Old friends, distant relatives, neighbors, caretakers, church members and townspeople turned out! It was absolutely amazing. Concord: Population about 150. As we counted names later we decided over 100 had attended. (High attendance for that sweet church is normally 54!)
The churches pastor and the funeral professionals were as surprised as we were!
We proceeded to the cemetery. Cars followed behind us. As we arrived at the grave site we saw a line of very patriotic elderly veterans standing at attention in honor of their comrade. They fired a 21 gun salute. The sound rang out over that beautiful familiar cemetery. The flag was folded and presented to my sister, along with heart-felt thanks, dignity and honor. Taps were played. Andy reminded us of the necessity of leaving our grief in that place and that life must continue beyond that day.
Reluctantly we left that place, comforted by knowing he was NOT there, but that we gave him a sweet, loving and grateful send-off.
We went back to the church where once again we were surprised by the amount of food prepared and served by the ladies of the community. Folks gathered again to eat, tell stories and remind us of what it means to be loved in a small town.
Pictures were taken, folks introduced to each other, new babies hugged, recipes shared, sincere condolences spoken and old friendships rekindled.
Those folks have no idea of the comfort they brought to this family. Or maybe they do!
Because, that's how it's done in a small mid western town where "everybody knows your name."