Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How many people are planning on attending YOUR funeral or memorial service?

Have you ever thought of that before?

On May1st, 1995, family and friends gathered at my Daddy, Pat Duane Elder's, memorial service to say their final good-byes to him. The service was held at Leoti's Methodist Church which is a very large local church which holds alot of people. A couple of weeks before Daddy died from cancer, he gathered Mama, my sisters, Lori and Lona Sue, their husbands, Rob and Leif, his grandchildren and Stan and I for a family conference. He made it very clear to us that there was absolutely NO need in a funeral or memorial service of any kind for him when he was gone. I couldn't believe my ears! Why would he think of anything like that??? I asked him why he was thinking of that. He told us that those services cost ALOT of money and that he didn't want us to "waste" our money like that. There was no need in it because the only people who would bother to show up to the church would be my mom, the three daughters, the three sons-in-law who were his sons as far as he was concerned, and his 6 grandchildren (that was before Lars, Leighlyn and Abigayle were born).

Coffins are a major portion of the expense of formal good-byes. He had that cost covered. Several years earlier when he found out that he had cancer, he signed paperwork to donate his body once he died so that doctors could learn more about the horrible disease. He said that if by doing so, one person's life could be spared, it was all worth it. Most of these donated remains are ready to be returned to the donator's family within 1 1/2 years. Before being sent back, the remains are cremated and sent back in a small cardboard box. The family then decides whether or not to bury the individual or to place in an urn at home, etc. In Daddy's case, our Grandma had already purchased 2 burial lots next to her and her husband to be his and Mama's final resting spots. So...there was no cost there. A tombstone? No cost either as Daddy was an Air Force veteran so he was allowed a marble tombstone from them. He just told us to bury his ashes in a hole next to the tombstone.

Well, normally, none of us went against Daddy's wishes. This was one wish that we would not grant to him.

He died on April 29th at his home with his beloved and only true love, Mama, all of his children, his grandchildren, his sister, Neva, whom was more of a mother to him than anyone. and her husband. (His father, Roy, died when he was two years old. His mother, Helen, died when he was 5 or 6. After that, he and his five older brothers were sent to live with their 6 older sisters and their families. He ended up spending most of his childhood with Aunt Neva Kiefer-Duncan whom we lovingly refer to as "Grandma" today.

Daddy's favorite words were husband and Daddy. Does that tell you what kind of man he was???

Because of the fact that our wedding anniversary is always on May 2nd, (LOL), Mama insisted what we have his memorial service on May 1st so that we didn't always remember our anniversary as also being the day that we all formally said our good-byes to Daddy.

May 1st was very cold and drizzly in Leoti. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. We made our way to church. All of us dreaded this day as it was so final--the end of our wonderful story with Daddy, the man whom we put above all others. (I thought that he must surely have a seat next to God in Heaven!)

The funeral director kept Daddy's family, all of us, in the church's fellowship hall until it was time for us to take our seats at the front of the church. Remember how Daddy foresaw that less than 20 people would care enough to show up at church to say "so long"? Ummm, he was wrong about that. Before we left the fellowship hall, it was easily seen that the hallway that seperated the fellowship hall from the main worship area was completely full of people wanting to say bye to Daddy. Once inside the worship center, we saw that the only vacant seats were the ones at the front of the church where our family would be seated. There was NO standing room left. People stood at the sides of the room, behind the church pews, in folding chairs that had been set up, in the front corridor, in the loft that overlooks the worship center, in Sunday School classrooms, in the parlor, in the small chappel. Lots of people, huh? Even more people who could not fit into the church were standing outside in the wet coldness on both sides of the main chappel. As soon as church and funeral leaders began seeing so many people flocking in, Public Address equipment was hurriedly set up so that the outside people could also listen to Daddy's eulogy, etc.

Not bad for the man who saw no sense is paying the extra money out for 20 people to show up at his services.

Why were there so many people who showed up for this event? I can tell you. They showed up because they loved and they cared for this man. Daddy was not a perfect man. Far from it. He never made it a secret that he had made his own fair share of mistakes in his lifetime which spanned over 62 years. The sins that he had committed, just like all of us do, did not prevent people from wanting to be there for this final event. They came because of his goodness...for how he treated people...for his giving ways...for his generosity...for his caring...for his love...for his sense-of-humor...for his sense of obligation...for the way he loved his wife like none other...for the way he gave to his children...for the way that he gave to his grandchildren...for the way that he took my poor foster children to Gibsons in Scott City to buy them clothes and cowboy boots when they arrived at our home with nothing more than the clothes on their bruised backs...for the way he treated the less fortunate..for the way he gave a $20.00 bill back to a family who owed him money just so that they could go out and buy groceries to produce a fried chicken dinner for their kids... for cleaning someone else's sewer line out in the middle of a blizzard so that their indoor plumbing would begin to work again...for the way he allowed his daughters' friends to "move in" while they were experiencing problems at home...for the counseling and support that he gave to his fellow alcoholics...for the way he loved his dogs, cats, rabbits and pigeons...for the way he enjoyed meeting his friends for lunch at the cafe every day... for the way that he never got angry as his body began to hurt and fail with the onset of his cancer... for the way that he continued to support me when the reality of my bi-polar disorder finally hit bottom...for the way he didn't allow anyone to hurt someone else...for the way he refused to stab people in the back..for the way he refused to be a Sunday Christian--he tried to be a Christian 7 days a week...for the way he didn't lie to others...for the way he told you the painful truth when it was necessary...for the way he believed that no one was any better nor any worse than he was...for loving the life that God had blessed him with...for the way he appreciated the bad times just as much as he appreciated the good times...for the way that the bad times made him enjoy the good times just that much more...I could go on and on but I am sure that you get my point on the kind of person who my Daddy was.

I know that Daddy's final reward was being allowed to enter into Heaven's golden gates. But he was also rewarded in our world by having so many people show up at his memorial service. I am positive that God granted him the opportunity to join us in church that day and see each and every person there who came to pay their last respects to him.

Daddy's ashes were shipped back to us in a little cardboard box. His older brother, Lewis' ashes were sent to his daughter, Linda's home, shortly before. They had both donated their bodies to KU Medical Center. Linda and all of us decided to hold another memorial service for the family a short time later so that we could bury the brothers at the same time. Daddy was a plumber for many years so he would have loved to have known what we chose to bury him and Uncle Lewis in! Stan went to the hardware store bought some white PVC pipe and dug out 4 of Daddy's pipe caps. He, Leif and Rob transferred each man's ashes into the pipes. One of them used Daddy's post hole diggers to dig holes in each man's gravesite. The "urns" were then dropped into the approriate areas and covered with dirt. After prayers were said at each grave, everyone returned to our home for dinner and visiting. Oh, and by the way, Daddy got another wish of his fulfilled. The Air Force provided his marble tombstone--free-of--charge.

I ask you this, are you living your life in ways that will make many people show up to bid you a fond farewell???


1 comment:

  1. Lynn, this is a very nice article. Your children and their cousins will read it again and again and share it with their own children.


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