I’ve attempted to write this post a few times now, but words escaped me. And, until I could put my thoughts to words, I wouldn’t write another blog post.
This past week, one of our relatives passed away. Let me rephrase that: this past week, one of my husband’s relatives passed away. One that I had never met. However, I did know his son and daughter-in-law, Bobby and Joni, as we often go out with them in Savannah. But, my husband was out of town on business and I found myself in the slightly awkward position of “Should I go, or shouldn’t I go?” to the funeral of a person I’ve never met.
So I offered to sing at the funeral service, like the hundreds I’ve sung at before. Silly me, thinking that it was them that would benefit by my presence there.
Little did I know that it would be me getting more out of that funeral than my presence would ever serve to B’s family.
I’m not the most eloquent person. Sure, writing is much different, as writers have two things at their disposal: time, and the backspace button. Speaking words of comfort has never been my forté. But with singing, I can express myself infinitely better than awkwardly trying to form sentences together in a time of grieving.
What can my words do to ameliorate this situation? Nothing.
It was a four hour drive from Savannah, Georgia to Rock Hill, South Carolina. I do so much driving nowadays (to see family in either Maryland or Florida) that another road trip seemed like an absolute chore. We were just in Florida a few days before, and I just really craved being in my own space and sleeping in my own bed.
And I absolutely hate myself for allowing my initial reaction be a slothful one.
B was gracious enough to let me make that decision on my own. I learned his grandparents would be driving down from Maryland (an eight hour drive) and that’s when I started feeling ashamed. It was one of those moments when you realize, “I’m an adult and I need to start acting like one,” not to mention that I was also the only representative from our little family in Savannah. So I went to pay my respects to a person I didn’t know.
And that’s when my blessings came showering down.
I arrived at my hotel in Rock Hill approximately at 9pm. I wasn’t really tired, and the family was waiting for me at the widow’s home. It was wonderful to see B’s grandparents again (some of the sweetest and most loving people I’ve ever met), and it was even nicer to see some of his relatives from West Virginia. I met Ruth Ann, the widow, and I marveled at how well she was holding up. She sat me down, and in the true hospitality that only Southerners have, said, “Sit down and tell us about yourself. We’re nosy!”
She won me over instantly.
The next day the memorial service was held. Family and friends had a gathering at the funeral parlor before the service, and afterwards we led a procession to the cemetery. But that ceremony was one I’ll never forget.
A few stood up and shared touching stories of how this man opted to pay them to do simple maintenance around his house, simply to give them much needed income in a time of great need. There’s something to be said for having people gather in your name and give testimony to how much you helped them before you passed. It made me wonder, what will people say when I’m gone? Will I have touched enough lives to make a difference? Will people remember me with reverence or apathy? I sure hope it’s the former, as this service was extremely moving. The most memorable testimony came from Uncle Thomas.
“All of us, we’re on this bus to downtown Detroit. Once in a while, we’ll get a transfer to a better destination—Myrtle Beach…”
Uncle Thomas’ testimony removed the need for a sermon. The pastor mused that Uncle Thomas’ father must have been a Baptist preacher as his testimony was so moving.
See, most West Virginians spend their summer vacation in Myrtle Beach. I assume that there’s something involved with the mountains and the lack of nearby beaches that makes Myrtle Beach the most accessible. In fact, at times there are more West Virginians in Myrtle Beach than South Carolinians. According to Uncle Thomas, there’s nothing better than being Myrtle Beach. But back to Uncle Thomas’ testimony…
He told the story of when he and Bob moved from West Virginia to Detroit one hot summer looking for jobs. Their first day there, they boarded the public bus and went grocery shopping, before the days of plastic bags and air-conditioned public buses. They had groceries from the 3 basic food groups: ice cream, pork & beans, and beer. Somewhere on their trip home, sitting at the back of the bus, their ice cream started melting through the cardboard box and paper bag; their cans of pork & beans started rolling to the front of the bus when the bus slowed down, and rolling to the back when it sped back up; and then there was Bob–drinking his cold beer before it went bad. Needless to say, the bus driver was livid with them. He thought they were going to get a beating.
Uncle Thomas’ story of being on the bus to Detroit was a metaphor for life. Sometimes it’s unpleasant sitting there with melting ice cream in your lap, your only belongings scattering into the four winds. However, he likened Myrtle Beach to being in heaven.
“Myrtle Beach is the best place in the world. If there is a heaven (which I’m sure there is), then it must be just like Myrtle Beach. All your family and friends, the sun, the beach and all funnel cakes you can eat! Bob is now in “Myrtle Beach,” and I’m a little jealous because I want to be there, too! All of us, we’re all on this bus to downtown Detroit. Once in a while, we’ll get a transfer to a better destination—Myrtle Beach…”
I never knew this man, but halfway through the service I, too, was shedding tears for him.
And one day I, too, hopefully, will be on that bus to Myrtle Beach.