Of funerals and joy



My family’s perspective on funerals has been anything but traditional. I never knew my mother to attend a church funeral; I can count on the fingers of one hand the number my dad attended. Both were loving people. Daddy sat up nights with many of the dead at their homes before the advent of funeral parlors. Mother quietly expressed sympathy to the bereaved. But funerals were not their way.

Thank goodness, they had that choice. And thank goodness those with other ways have the right of choice as well.

It seems to me what has been the customary Southern funeral makes it extremely difficult for those who are struggling to contain their grief and reconcile themselves to their loss. The added stress of having their pain on display must be most difficult.

At my own daughter’s request, no funeral was held for her beloved grandmother, only a brief burial service. And what a comfort to me when I realized a funeral was not necessary upon my daughter’s death.

Slowly the traditional Southern funeral is becoming a celebration of the life of the one who’s died. Surely the life of Joe Bennett Fowler was celebrated at his service April 9 at Lester Memorial United Methodist Church, where he had grown up. Sons Ben, George, and Mark and oldest grandson recalled their rearing by this man. They did so in tales immersed in laughter, their own and that of listening family and friends – not chuckles but riotous guffaws filling the ears and hearts of all who heard. Joy!

Labeling him a family man, who so dearly loved their mother, Wrae, they recounted rich experiences, fun, and learning, which apparently played roles wherever they were.

The recalling of the spiritual life of the godly minister brought its own joy to the service, as well. As a little girl, I lived across the street from Joe, and he taught me to ride a bicycle, no small feat as I was all arms and legs and no coordination. Maybe if I hadn’t moved across town, he might have taught me to swim and bat a ball, desirable skills never acquired. He was a warm and deeply good man.