Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Heartfelt Memories

By Linda Goodman

©Linda Goodman August 8, 2017

Today I attended a funeral for the sister of one of my fellow church members.  As part of the service, the minister asked for those who knew the deceased to share a memory about her. Some lovely, heartfelt moments came from those memories. They warmed my heart.

When I was 13, my baby sister Evelyn’s best friend, Ann, lost her father to a heart attack. I escorted Evelyn, who was 11 years old at the time, to the funeral at the Methodist church that was just across the street from our house apartment building.

Besides Ann and the woman she lived with, Evelyn and I were the only ones there. Ann had been taken from her mother after her mother had gone on a drunk and had set her own bed on fire. Rather than take Ann in, her father paid a women to take care of her. Ann lived in the woman’s home. Her father picked her up every Saturday morning and brought her back to the woman’s house just after dark. Often he invited Evelyn and me to spend the day with them. He told my father that he had no idea what to do with a child, and that having Evelyn and me along for the day took a lot of pressure off of him.

Ann’s Father would always buy us lunch. Afterwards we might go to a movie or a ballgame, but usually we just spent the day in the bowling alley, where beer was served freely. Before he took us home, he bought us chocolate milkshakes and treated himself to one more beer.

I cried when no one came to his funeral, but I was crying for Ann; not him. He was Ann’s only family, and Ann loved him more than anything else in the world. I knew she was scared. I was scared for her! Did her daddy have a fund set up to take care of her? If he did not, how would the woman who cared for Ann get paid? Would she still take care of Ann if she did not get paid?

I also knew that Ann was devastated that no one, other than Evelyn and me, had come to his funeral. She thought that her daddy had lots of friends at his work. She was so distraught that I could not help but feel her pain. I made a vow right then and there that I would do everything in my power to go to the funerals of the people that I knew. I would go for their families, assuring them that their loved ones were special people who would be remembered with honor, respect and love.

When my own father died, my biggest fear was that no one would come to his funeral. On the evening of August 10, 1987, the hospital had called me at my parents’ apartment to let me know that my father, who had suffered from multiple myeloma for 11 months, had passed away.  I called my brothers and my sister.  We all gathered together with my mother, trying to imagine our family without its anchor.  Tears flowed freely at first.  All we could see was darkness.

I need not have worried about people coming to the funeral. The chapel in the funeral home was full. This surprised all of us, as my father was not one to socialize. I did not think he had a lot of friends. Then something amazing happened: the minister extended an  invitation for those in attendance to share stories about my father. I heard stories about my father that were completely new to me. Neighbors told about good deeds that he had done on their behalf, never mentioning his good works to others. Co-workers told stories of his integrity and kindness.   

Then the family chimed in. My brother Lee told the story about how my father had once gotten his foot stuck in my mother’s favorite coffee pot.  Then I told the story of the time that Daddy thought the preacher was the Fuller Brush man.  My brother-in-law Donald told about how he and Daddy had saved a neighbor woman from an ax murderer. My sister Evelyn told about the day Daddy had just walked right on into the wrong house to wait for my brother Lee to come home. My brother Allen told about the time Daddy had made delicious biscuits, but had not checked the measuring cup first.  Our biscuits were filled with screws, nuts, and bolts. Suddenly the tears were replaced by laughter, and the image of our father suffering in that hospital bed was vanquished.  The stories enabled us to celebrate the strong and vital man that he had been, the man whom we were blessed to call father.

I will continue to keep my vow and give comfort and support whenever someone I know loses a loved one. I pray that you will do the same. No one should have to be alone when a loved one is taken away. A kind word is always appreciated. Heartfelt memories are golden.