Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Can You Start?

In Memory of Lois Milburn

Lately, I've attended more funerals than weddings.  It could very well be just a symptom of my chronicle age.  I've actually become quite good at them.  Although by no means am I an expert, I know a good funeral when I see one.  I jot mental notes and images down as if each was my own dress rehearsal.   What would I want people to say and do at my funeral?  How should I be at my parents funeral?  Should I hold back my tears?

We lost my father-in-law's sister and last remaining sibling, Lois, this past weekend.  (Actually, we really didn't lose Lois because she knew were she was going.)  For eighty-eight years, Lois lived a really good life and even at her funeral she made us laugh.  A vibrant senior lady, with meticulous red hair, sparkling eyes, high cheek bones, and a wide mischievous smile; Lois enjoyed living and made us enjoy the times we spent together, her funeral was no exception.

I'm not fond of attending these types of family reunions.  The idea of having to view an open casket is not something I enjoy.  The symbolism of having to stare at death right in the face haunts me for days.  Lois, however looked asleep with a smile on her face.  The same smile she showed us all at her family photo this last Thanksgiving time.  There she was clowning amongst her children, grand children, and great grand children.  Little did she know that she would suffer a massive heart attack several days later.  Even at death she made us smile.  

What a surprise her funeral was for all of us.  Who would have thought that this Texan would actually have a black minister presiding over her funeral.  First he lead the mourners in Negro spirituals, and all kinds of images raced through my head, images of sorrow, tribulation, and moments of faith.  We then prayed.  Then it was time for this powerful man with a broad smile to address the mourners.  From the moment Pastor Caesar got up to speak, I knew I better participate.  He was a big man but I soon found out how big he really was in Lois's eyes.  You see this man was also touched by Lois.

He recounted his story of how he came to know Lois.  He was a broken man when he interviewed for the minister job at her church in Arcadia Park (Dallas).  He even told the church board that he had just gone through a horrible divorce.  In his own eyes, he wasn't fit for the job and that he would understand if they selected someone else.  When the time came he reentered the room.  Lois approached the minister and said, "When can you start?"  Caesar, a big man, could no longer hold back his tears, as he recounted his first encounter with this woman.  Lois touched his heart with forgiveness and acceptance.  By this time, there was not a dry eye in the chapel.  Most of us understood that this was definitely the person we knew and whose body we were to bury.

We buried Lois's body yesterday.  We mourn our loss and perhaps we even grieve our own mortality.  While I have many questions about this type of loss, I walked away from this funeral feeling better.  You see I know that Lois's spirit will always be with us and I think about, "When can you start?"

1 comment:

  1. Wonderfully sculpted tribute Al.

    It's interesting, when I read the title, before reading the piece, I said to myself "Heck, I can start now because I never stopped."

    Peace to you and your family.


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