Thursday, April 06, 2006

I've seen a lotta things...

...but I ain't EVER seen nothin like that before.

Though there's a lot to be said for living in a bigger city, there are few things that ya just gotta love about small towns. Everybody...and I mean everybody knows your business, most of the time, better than you. And damn near everyone's related in one way or another. But they do know how to pull together in a tragedy.

I just got home from what had to have been the world's looooongest funeral...over 2 hours. And that's not counting 'cemetery time', which was another 45 minutes or so. Honest ta gawd, I've never been through anything as today.

Before I go into the whole story, I wanna try to explain something. I'm absolutely not poking fun. Ok, maybe a little, but I hope I can temper it with a little love. I mean, these people were my relatives. Obviously, they're still my daughter's relatives. And many of them I still consider friends, though I may not have seen them for ages. The deceased was, in fact, my daughter's first cousin...making me his aunt. Ex-aunt? Whatever. I sat with "the family" because that's the way they wanted it, even though I haven't technically been part of them for many, many years. That's the kinda people they are.

As I mentioned in my previous post, "E" was only 21. He had an infectious grin that sooooo resembled his dad's. He was an avid fisherman and deer hunter. He drove an older, souped-up SUV, complete with the loud, burbling mufflers and big tars, which was in fact, part of the funeral...I'll get to that in a minute. He was a down-home, flag-wavin, football playin, mom and apple pie country boy, through and through. And as such, I'm sure he would have been tickled at the funeral. His remaining family arranged it the way they wanted it and, more importantly, the way HE would have wanted it. I need to keep that fact in mind.

Part of me was happy that the funeral was the way it was...kinda thumbing it's nose at 'tradition', but it was "right", ya know? Right for HIM. Part of me was...not 'horrified' exactly, but close...and I can't escape that fact. To be brutally honest, it was the reddest-necked, redneck funeral you could have possibly imagined. I mean, if it wasn't so tragically awful, it'd have been funny.

I thought maybe something was up when I sat in the car, waiting for my daughter to arrive. People were walking into the funeral home dressed in t-shirts, ratty jeans and camo gear. Not everyone...but a good majority. Most were E's friends...he had a million...and they were young. Ok. Not my choice of attire for a funeral...actually it's one of my pet peeves...but they're kids. Whatever. But then his mom arrived, not in the funeral home limo per standard operating procedure, but chauffered in E's beloved, loud-muffler'd, big tarred SUV. And SHE had on jeans, a t-shirt and a camo jacket. As they pulled up to the funeral home, the driver gunned the motor several times, rattling the windows of the nearby a kind of "salute".

During the funeral, itself, there were several times that I wondered how in the hell everyone was holding it together. Well...they weren't...not really. It was almost more than I could bear...and I wasn't really part of it...wasn't really "close", ya know? Every sad country song you can think of was played. Between the songs, several of his friends, cousins and even his sister got up and read poems, bits of songs or just told a personal story. Most had difficulty keeping their emotions in check.

And ya know us women...we see someone cry, and it makes US cry. I nearly lost it completely..I mean the throw myself down on the floor and WAIL kinda 'lost it' when they played Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". Hell, I almost always cry when I hear that song in the best of circumstances. was over and time to load up for the trip to the tiny, country cemetery. I almost lost it again on the way when I saw the entire volunteer fire department (E was also a volunteer firefighter), complete with every truck and vehicle, standing at attention as we passed. Stuff like that just...moves me. When we pulled out onto Main Street, which is also a state route, the police had all the traffic stopped. The cars that were already in town pulled over as we passed...something that ya rarely see here, unfortunately.

The teeny, tiny cemetery at the top of the hill was jam-packed, as well. Once again, the SUV played a part. As the pall bearers carried the casket through the silent throng, that silence was broken by the gunning of the big, powerful engine...another "salute". Again, the fire department was on hand, all spiffed up in their 'dress blues', standing at attention. They did this ceremony...a bell ringing...something. I forget what they called it...oh...'call to home', maybe?... but it was incredibly moving. Lost it again when they presented his mom with a flag and his sister with his firefighter's helmet.

And after the service? Why, it was the big feed at the local Vee Eff Double-yew. Honest ta gawd...the food...small-town people are just incredibly generous at times like this. The VFW ladies prepared a lot, but there was also a lot 'brought in' by friends. Unfortunately, I didn't stay to eat...couldn't have most of the stuff, anyway, but DAMN...did I ever want some. Homemade chicken and noodles, mashed 'taters, roast beef, fried chicken, rolls, salads, gawd knows what else...every kind of cookie, pie or cake you can imagine.

I dunno. It was so good to see all these people again, even under these circumstances. I'm just so damned tired and emotionally wrung out. It's been a helluva long day. I don't even remember driving home. But I wanted to jot my thoughts down while they were still fresh.

I wanted to have black and help me remember what it's like to live be part of...a small town.

Not that I ever wanna go back.


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