November 22, 2010

A Celebration of My Grandpa

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After a week-long break from blogging, I am so glad to be back. Without meaning any disrespect for my dearly departed grandfather, I just can’t justify the operation of a blog that celebrates “all things southern” and not at least devote one post about the anomaly that is the southern funeral.

I know that funeral traditions run deep and wide, depending on where you live or how you were raised. It is such a peculiar thing though when you really stop to think about it. In this case, probably even more unique because my grandfather was a) a retired minister and b) had a very specific idea about how things should be done.

He started planning his funeral something like 11 years ago. So that definitely takes some of the pressure off when all you have to do is just carry out the person’s wishes. Last Monday, my extended family gathered at our town’s largest funeral home to “view the body.” Once again, I mean no disrespect, but because I believe we go on to a much better place after death, the body left behind is such a shell of a thing. I’m not really a fan of open casket funerals, but this is what my grandpa wanted. After our family had a little time together, folks started arriving. We stood in a receiving line and greeted them (all 687 of them) for hours.

Since my grandpa was a preacher, he knew a LOT of people. It was so special to have complete strangers tell me how much he and my grandmother had meant to them. My feet hurt and I went through an entire box of mints, but to me, this felt very important. Greeting these folks, hugging their necks and letting them know their presence was appreciated was a way to honor my grandparents and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Tuesday was the funeral. Several of my family members spoke and that made it special. My grandpa had requested that 4 songs be sung because they had also been sung at his father’s funeral (When the Roll is Called up Yonder, In the Sweet By and By, Amazing Grace & Victory in Jesus). Afterward, we filed out and got into our cars for the funeral procession to the gravesite. All morning it had been pouring rain, but at this moment the sky just cleared right up and the sun burst forth from the clouds like nothing I’ve ever seen. That was pretty neat.

I don’t know if this is common in other parts of the country/world, but here in the south, when a funeral procession goes by, any other drivers on the road pull of to the shoulder with their lights on to show respect. Some even got out of their cars and stood with hands on heart. This touched me so much. Because the gravesite was at a family cemetery out in the country, the procession had to travel about 18 miles or so. I never saw one vehicle the whole time that wasn’t stopped on the shoulder. Just one more thing I love about the small town south.

Typically in these parts, a church where one of the surviving loved ones attends will offer to provide food for the family after everything is all over. In this case, several churches offered to host us because my grandpa had connections to them at one point or another when he was a pastor.

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Here’s a shot of the spread they prepared for us…including 4 different types of deviled eggs! Be still my southern heart. Even this part of the day felt like a celebration of my grandpa because he loved to eat good cooking and would have enjoyed this immensely.

Everybody thinks his or her grandparents are the best and they are. I cherish every memory I have of mine. I still want to call my grandpa and picture him sitting at his house waiting until the phone rang twice before he answered it (another eccentricity I can’t explain). He had actually moved to an assisted living facility near the end of his life, after my family could no longer provide the necessary in home care services that he required. But we have great memories of those times too -- taking over the dining hall with our whole family gathered around him on his birthday.

I know I’ll see him again and that helps. His funeral truly was a celebration of his life, probably the first like it I’ve ever attended. Thank you all for your kind words while I was away.


{grandpa & me 2009}

17 comments:

  1. So sorry for your loss. It took me much longer to feel up to blogging again when we lost my MIL and then my Gram a few months later. You're so right though, there's something warm and lovely about southern funerals. You truly get a sense of "celebration" for their other home-coming.

    Big hugs!

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  2. Oh, what a lovely tribute to your Grandfather! Funerals truly can be a celebration of life - and your grandpa's certainly was. How special that the same songs were sung at his funeral as his own father's.

    What a wonderful photo of the two of you. Thanks for sharing...and take care!
    Susan

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  3. Hugs to you my dear! I am sure he was smiling down on all of this and will continue to be an angel on your shoulder as you go through life. We can never have enough of those angels!

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  4. What a beautiful tribute to your grandpa! I love all you say here and always love your voice! By the way, I have something in common with him..I also NEVER answer the telephone until it rings at least twice. I'm not sure I can explain it, but I've always done it. :-)

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  5. A remarkable man and a remarkable first great grand daughter.......

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  6. That is such a sweet picture! Cherish the memories and be glad that you have them to hold onto!
    I love that we pull over when a funeral passes, too.

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  7. awwww...kate, he's such a cutie. great pic of y'all that i'm sure you'll cherish forever!

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  8. When my Granny passed, Andy was moved to tears during the procession. Not only did cars pull over, like you mentioned, but a little boy riding a bike (he couldn't have been more than 8 or 9) stopped his bike and took off his cap. How wonderful to grow up in a small town where children know such things are right! And as for food, whenever I call my mother and she says she's cooking, my first question is "Who passed?" I'm so thankful you had a wonderful goodbye celebration for your sweet Grandpa!

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  9. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. YOU are beautiful. And precious.

    And I might like to add... there is nothing in the world like sweet little church lady casseroles.

    P.S. I know he was crazy proud of you.

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  10. Such a nice post and a beautiful picture of you and your grandfather. It's nice that you were able to celebrate his life with your family and others whose lives he touched.

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  11. welcome back to blogland, sweet girl. you were missed! i am glad to hear that such a lovely tribute when on to your dear grandfather. you are in my positive thoughts!

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  12. Glad to have you back and this post is great tribute to your Grandpa!

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  13. This funeral sounds just like the ones that happen around here. And, the respect that people show by pulling off to the side of the road is wonderful. Also, we always gather at a church for food after the service. It sounds like your grandfather had such a positive impact on people.

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  14. What a precious picture of the two of you! He looks like such a sweet soul and think of how happy he is now!

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  15. your Grandpa was lucky to have you just like the rest of us, I love you dearly, your philly

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  16. It was such a sweet day, and it felt like a true celebration of our precious grandpa! I loved reading your blog! See you soon! xoxoxo
    Courtney

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  17. This post literally brought tears to my eyes..losing a grandparent is one of the toughest things.
    I went through the same "picking up to call my granddaddy" thing a few years ago..it's so weird.
    You are so sweet to do a post like this, and it is truly touching!

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Lay it on me y'all!