Friday, September 12, 2008

The good thing about funerals . . .

. . . is seeing people you haven't seen for many years, people you love, who grew up with you, who shared some of the fondest childhood memories with you. Dad, mom and I arrived early and talked with my aunt before the crush of people arrived. I avoided looking long at the coffin, I know that's hard for me and best not to look. Linda was the first of my cousins to walk in the door. She rushed to us with tears starting and that was it for me too. So a little weeping and much hugging later with more and more cousins arriving, we pulled ourselves together and settled down to some wonderful conversations and catching up.

I looked around at this Griffin family - beautiful people, physically beautiful. The younger generations I don't know but recognize as they have those Griffin genes and I see the eyes, the build, the hair, the smile, it's remarkable. The Griffins are a musical bunch -- didn't we all have piano lessons? We sang a couple of hymns during the service and the voices were beautiful. At one point all of my uncle's grandchildren and great-grandchildren sang a medley of songs. I counted over 50 descendants.

Uncle was a renowned singer in the community, and his daughter today played for us a medley of songs he loved to sing -- an emotional moment during the service. I am proud of my five cousins who each gave short speech, a prayer, or music. Everyone remembered, as I did, that uncle was like a big kid, and indeed would rather be outside playing with the kids than inside talking with the adults. Many, many good memories. Not that his life was without problems, but that he offered something special that influenced many people, his children most of all.

The funeral was not the long, sad thing I am used to. The speakers were brief, positive, reflecting on happy times, telling stories about their father. There was almost no preaching nor even much talk of being together in the next life - as though that's a given and we needn't go into that. The bishop did offer something at the end, but I spaced out his words as I admired the old Garland tabernacle with its dark beams and stained glass windows, rare for a Mormon church.

We all then drove the 20 miles to the tiny Newton cemetary for the graveside service. And then much more hugging, reluctant to have to say goodbye to our dear cousins, our aunts who have grown so small and fragile. Dad and mom were tired and we skipped the dinner served in Garland and instead went straight home.

Before parting, Christina and I said we would try next year to organize a family picnic if not a reunion (reunions sound like a lot of work and a picnic sounded easier). We have good intentions to try to see each other more often. I don't know if we'll follow through. But I do know I'm a very fortunate person to be in the middle of such a big loving family. No, it's not a perfect family, but taken as a whole, a very good place to be.

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