A Good Funeral

God took Ruth on Thursday—a faithful servant called home. He freed her from the physical pain of cancer and gathered her to His bosom. The family and friends were comforted in the promise of Heaven for her, but left to mourn in the traditional way—a funeral.

It was Saturday and August hot in the west Texas town, a town still small and intimate enough to have a good funeral. Food and funerals some way go together; eating is the way we seem most comfortable together. At noon in the new annex the church women provided everything to eat. Most of the family was there, with a few still on the road but due by the 2 pm service.

The front of the old church auditorium was filled with flowers. The community overflowed the back seats early, and extra chairs were brought in. The streets were as quiet as the auditorium; did the whole town come? Those last to arrive stood quietly and respectfully for the family to be seated first. The family was unusually large for the times—seven children, fourteen grandchildren, and two sisters. The town had always taken notice of the strength and love of this family, and they were reminded again as the grieving husband and youngest child lead them into the service. With spouses and other kin they filled seven rows.

Words flowed freely from several speakers; all spoke of Ruth’s influence on their lives and her love for every person she met. The “virtuous woman” of Proverbs was offered as a model of Ruth’s life. A granddaughter read a poem about her grandmother. Someone recalled how Ruth’s kindness showed in her eyes when she spoke with you. The congregation sang, just as they always did, but with one less alto voice. They sang not in sadness but in hope of the resurrection when they would all see Ruth again.

A line of cars wrapped around the block, waiting patiently for the funeral procession to begin. At the turn into the cemetery a police officer stood respectfully with hat off, nodding and waving to the cars—people he knew. The burial plot was in a far corner of the old cemetery, in a new area it appeared, adjacent to a good stand of cotton that was just beginning to bloom. The crowd of mourners flocked from the cars for a downhill trek to the funeral tent, but kept quiet and respectful behind the family’s walk to the grave site. The final words and a prayer were brief. Those who had helped with the service then filed by with kindness and respect, followed by the honorary pall bearers. Friends lingered for final words with the family—there were lots of hugs and tears. The sun was hot, but no one noticed.

They buried Ruth on Saturday, and it was a good funeral.

Ray Mack Thompson [raymack@mac.com]