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Procession

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Funeral-procession

Whenever I return to my hometown, I’m reminded of things that are more prevalent in small towns that are not done anymore in greater Atlanta or its suburbs.  As we celebrate the life of my grandmother, I revisit the tradition of the funeral procession.

Growing up, someone’s importance or impact was judged by the length of their funeral procession.  I always hoped I would have a really long one.  In Atlanta, processions just aren’t the norm–nor are they safe.  I know that it is expected for slain police officers,  politicians, or celebrities to have significant processions (wherever they take place, no matter how big the city).  In small towns like my hometown, everyone gets a funeral procession between the church/funeral home and the cemetery.

The first time I vividly remember being part of a funeral procession was surrounding the death of my paternal grandfather when I was almost sixteen.  Several people pulled over, and I remember one person in particular stood with his hat off, placed over his heart, in honor and contemplation of someone he did not even know.  Wow.  Today, people pulled over and watched our long line of cars proceed slower than the usual flow of traffic.

When you are part of a procession, the funeral home personnel tell you to turn on your blinking caution lights.  It’s as if to say “Caution.  Death coming through.”   I’ve been on the other side of many a procession.  It has been very good for me to take a minute and realize that life is fleeting, make it count, be thankful for what AND WHO you have.  Waiting for a funeral procession has been a different kind of interruption for me.  Instead of being annoyed, I think to myself, “I wonder who they lost.  I wonder how they died.  I wonder how they lived.  I wonder how the living will adjust to the new normal.”

The procession is one area where the small town wins.  It whispers, “Slow down and appreciate.”   I revisit my losses and memories, but I also tap into gratitude for all relationships I take for granted–even the monotonous.  There is beauty in the everyday when tomorrow will never be the same.

 

 

Lenten Musings and March 4

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40 Days.  May I write it out for 40 days?  Will I commit the time and energy?

I started blogging for lent several years ago and have lapsed for several years as well.  What makes this year different?  My 92 year old grandmother, Nanny, died on March 4, and I have spent the better part of every day since writing: writing obit, writing Eulogy, and writing the perfect FaceBook post to announce to friends and family.

In the Facebook post, I punned March 4 as “march forth” as I had seen elsewhere on the internet, but it seemed especially poignant for her.

The 1980s-1990s Nanny was a swiss army knife that could do anything–artistically, professionally, domestically: drawing, crafting, working under 20 Army Commanding Colonels, her fried chicken and potato salad–nuff said!! The late 1990s-millennial Nanny seemed to have forgotten herself and all that she had or could accomplish.  As someone so deeply religious, she held on tooth and nail and displayed a lot of fear and worry in her life.  I only have the eldest grandchild’s point of view–which does not display the complexity and messiness I now know life holds as a 40 something adult.  I’ve decided not to wonder why, but to focus on the fact that Nanny’s worries were soothed and quieted as she “marched forth” into the arms of her Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.  I just know it in my heart.  Honestly, the whole paradox of Nanny’s faith and worry in the same body makes me feel better about having doubts in my faith journey.  It is okay to believe but hold back; to turn it over to God, and take it back; to trust, but doubt.  These things make us human.  God made us, and through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God understands.

Writing someone’s end-of-life summary and being tapped as the designated family member to do so–while a daunting task due to its significance and and magnitude–is an honor and a privilege.  The part I like to laugh about is that no one in the family can cross me because I always have the last word.  The honor is being trusted to craft the narrative of someone’s years.  When I feel unsure that the person would want me to share information or draw conclusions I’ve drawn, I remind myself that funerals are for the living–the dead have gone on to glory–somewhere waaaay less petty than Earth.  The privilege is forcing myself to contemplate the “space between” birth and death.  Does what I am doing matter?  How am I using my time? Am I squandering time?  Am I just sucking wind?  How do I look from outside myself?

I hope blogging again will give me a jump off point for the space between.  I know that God will sanctify my time if I stay focused on God and God’s will for me.

space between