Yesterday I went to my uncle John's funeral. He was a simple, humble man from a little country town in southwest Missouri. I did not know him well, but I knew that he loved to fish and hunt with my dad, that he was an expert gardener - his tomatoes were luscious, and he grew gorgeous dahlias each year.
His funeral was a quiet affair with friends and family, and a neighbor played the guitar and sang old hymns that reminded me of music from Oh Brother Where Art Thou. Life or choice or a combination of both has removed me from extended family through the years, but sitting in the small funeral home, listening to the music, the guitar and a quiet, country version of Amazing Grace, hearing those around me softly singing it, returned me immediately to my childhood, when cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would spent many a weekend together in my mom's childhood home, crammed in like sardines.
I was surprised when I walked up to look at my uncle in the coffin. He had on his overalls. It was the only way I ever remembered him. I guess I expected to see him in a suit, but that wasn't him. It was fitting that he wore what he did.
I felt such sorrow for my dad, hearing him hum during the hymns. Knowing that his brother was gone. That they would never again have warm spring days together to go mushroom hunting. Wondering what it must be like to lose your siblings. It's a thought that turns my stomach and immediately brings hot tears behind my eyes, imagining my life without my own sister.
My cousin, uncle John's daughter, told us at the very end, before he passed, while he lay in the hospital bed in such pain, he opened his eyes and looked up, reaching towards the ceiling, and said, "Mama...Larry..." both of whom had already passed; his mother, my grandmother, before I was born, and my uncle Larry, Dad and John's fishing and hunting buddy, several years ago. Although I grew up in church, I have grown away from it since then, but still have my beliefs - I'm just not sure they're exactly the same as when I was a kid. Still, hearing that story, and the fact that he was seeing those people he loved in life as his life was ending, was comforting, and even though I am crying while I write this, I have to believe there is something more to my life than the here and now, and that eventually those that I love will be waiting for me too.
Earrings: World Market
Earrings: World Market