The family and I attended another funeral this weekend, this time for an older deacon in my church. While not directly related, this gentleman was my sister-in-law’s grandfather, and had attended a number of family functions through the years, so we were invited to the “after-meal”. I’m not sure that this is a uniquely Southern phenomenon, but since most church-going folk here in the South don’t drink (or at least, they don’t admit to it!), wakes are often out of the question. Instead, we gather together for a meal after the funeral, either at the church fellowship hall or at the family home of the deceased.
Being in the South, the menu is fairly predictable. Fried chicken, obviously, is the main course, along with mashed potatoes and gravy. Barbecue beans (ie. baked beans), fried okra, and green beans with bacon, plus warm rolls. There are usually 3 or 4 kinds of desserts: a homemade Italian cream cake from the church ladies, some cobbler, and someone brought a fresh angel food cake from the bakery with fresh strawberries. No one can put on a luncheon like a group of church ladies seeking to minister to the grieving family!
The best part, though, is not the food. For many this could be the last opportunity to visit for years, or maybe even ever. There were 4 generations of family there; the deceased was 91, after all. We all shared stories about him and the times of his life we knew of, and learned more about how he lived, and the legacy left behind. This gentleman was known to be a hard worker no matter what, whether at the workplace, home, or at church. He was also a gardener, and even though his health had been declining our church is still surrounded by the plants he had tended there through the years, donating at his own expense to beautify the church. You couldn’t walk through the church building without seeing his handiwork everywhere: a room painted here, sheet-rock hung there.
And then it was time to leave. Hugs were exchanged all around, goodbyes said, and we were on our way. It was a good visit…but I hope we don’t have another one anytime soon.