Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One-stop shopping

Let me tell you about my one-stop shopping family.

We have preachers, teachers, singers, and musicians, and we know how to put them to good use.

Yesterday, we went to my uncle's funeral. The visitation was the two hours before the service, because my cousins felt that it was best to do the whole thing at one time and get it over with.

Can you tell they're both male?

Anyway - we got to the funeral home, and the person who was supposed to conduct the service never showed up. He had been the pastor at the church where my uncle attended for several years (before his health made it difficult for him to attend) but had since resigned his church in a blaze of scandal.

So, we Coleys (that's my mom's maiden name, and thus my uncle's last name) pulled ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, and in 20 minutes had put together a fitting memorial.

My oldest aunt is a preacher, so she did the service. My mom played the piano (which the other man was supposed to have done too) and she, along with two other siblings, sang several songs that they had sung together in church while they were growing up.

My mom helped write the obituary, and the only surviving brother read it.

After my aunt's impassioned funeral sermon (she's one of those fiery types) my mom got up to say a few words. Out of the 10 children in that family, she, her sister just younger, and this brother were the closest. There was probably a six-year span between the three of them.

She talked about how they were termed the "three termites" by someone, and how they always got into trouble together. She told how that my uncle would come up with these grand schemes, and, somehow, she and the younger sister wound up doing most of the work.

Because my uncle was the only one in their group allowed to wear pants, they always tried to figure out where to put him when the time came to line up for a dose of my Papaw's 'shillelagh' (as he called whatever he was spanking them with.) Did they put him at the front of the line, so Papaw would get worn out by the time he reached the girls? Or did they put him at the end, in the event that as their dad went along he got more and more worked up and spanked harder and harder?

I don't think they ever figured out the answer.

She told how that they'd dreamed up a "distress call" and that he'd used it once, only nothing was really wrong, and they couldn't figure out where in the world he was whistling from.

My uncle loved a good story, and he had a terrific sense of humor. If the day hadn't been in his honor, he would've thoroughly enjoyed the service.

The whole storytelling type of eulogy is somewhat unusual for our family, but I'm glad my mom did it - my cousins needed to remember that before their dad got sick, before he led such a hard life, and brought them with them on his journey, that he was just a kid who roamed the streets of North Memphis with his sisters, seeing what kind of mischief they could get into.

My uncle was one of a kind. He'd had a T-shirt made somewhere that said "Coley University" and told his sons he wanted to be buried in it - and he was. T-shirt and blue jeans and all. Just like he would've liked.

(I'm sure he would've liked a pot of beans in there with him too, since he never thought he'd had a meal unless beans were involved, but that would've taken things a bit far.)

He would've loved hearing his little sisters and big brother sing again. He would've laughed at the stories, and interjected some tales of his own.

Out of all the deaths in my family, we got to have a funeral that, at least to Amanda and me, fit the personality of the person being buried.

Each of us can only hope for as much when it's our turn to exit this life.


doodlebugmom said...

Sounds like a wonderful service. How sweet it was his family that bid him farewell.

Valerie said...


although i've decided their ain't a-gonna be no funeral. just a good ol' fashioned Irish wake. plenty of good food, good drink and good laughs at my expense.

then stick my friends with the bill. HA!!

even from beyond the grave i've still got it.