Only once in my life did I march to a funeral dirge. I was pastor in Michigan’s U.P. The soldier son of a community member had died of a highly contagious disease. Handsome in his officer’s uniform, the son laid under the sealed glass cover of mahogany casket. I was asked to conduct the Christian rites at the gravesite service. Mourners gathered at the funeral home to march to the cometary.
I marched with aging legionnaires who wore bits of ill-fitting uniform. A make-up band with tarnished horns and a bass drum struck up a funeral dirge. We moved out following the casket on an open farm wagon pulled by a pickup. It was a bleak affair.
In contrast, there was no dirge at Kenwood Lutheran as smiling, hugging family and friends gathered to remember Ruth Hansen, older sister to Norma, my special friend from 313, who had suffered a debilitating stroke. Norma’s brief tribute set the tone. She said:
The past days are what Ruth and I have talked about for a long time—the final phase of our lives. As per her funeral directive, Norma will talk.
I was with Ruth almost 80 years. We were a formidable pair. But she didn’t always want me. I came home, a new- born and Ruth hid under the kitchen table. She had had the undivided attention of our grandparents, parents, and older brothers and sisters. The new interloper wasn’t needed.
When old enough to tag along, I’d beg to go with Ruth to cousin Lorraine’s. She would say to Mother, do I have to take here with me? But fast forward 20 years. Ruth would call: Do you want to come with me?
Ruth took good care of me. We shared a bed. I suffered from growing pains and she’d come home late from a date to find me crying. She would rub my legs until we both fell asleep. Two weeks ago Ruth was crying–her leg ached. And there was nothing I could do.
We talked often of the time we could have become a semi sandwich. We were in Kansas City heading south in the left lane with a huge semi on our right just outside my window. Another semi came down the ramp, horn blowing. Ruth gripped the steering wheel: Norma, this is it! Then we were tooling along; no semi in front or back. It wasn’t our time. We had things yet to do, quilts to make.
Others envied our relationship. We even finished each other’s sentences! Five years ago, when her stroke took Ruth’s spoken word away, she would write it and I could finish the story.
Ruth’s daughter Pat spoke the words that will sustain me until my turn comes. She said, after Ruth’s last breath, Mom, now you are breathing in heaven.
Old Grandpa Lloyd