I have just returned from the funeral of the mother of my dear friend, Shirl. It was a chilly and rainy day…very dismal…outside. We went first to the ‘old home place’ to the home where the family was all gathering. Everyone was covered with raincoats and big umbrellas as we all ran for the protection of her porch.
Inside, all was a-bustle. Family checking on one another…food being brought in,etc. Many of Mrs Ollie’s friends were there. They reminded me so much of her. They were such ‘ladies’….truly Southern ladies. This group of friends are the type, even in their late 80’s, who still walk 2 miles a day! Mrs. Ollie was 90! They braved the showers in their plastic rain hats to bring butter beans and fresh peach cobbler. When introduced to them, they said, “Oh,yes, we know about you. Ollie talked about you.” They were the genteel type, who said, “Oh, no, we musn’t tarry, we should be on our way!” And after a quick bite to eat and a prayer for the coming events, we made our way down the country roads to the funeral home in Blakely.
This was a little country funeral home…much like a country church in feel. The visitation was held an hour prior to the funeral, as is becoming the custom here, especially when the deceased is elderly. In a short time, it became filled to capacity. It held friends of Shirley’s Mom, these same ladies who were just at the house were now here, ready to be of any assistance that may be needed. It held friends of Shirley’s sister, Sue, and of Shirley. It held Mrs. Ollie’s grandchildren and Great-grands! It held old friends from Dothan who went to church with Shirley when she lived here. It held many family members that loved this sweet lady.
My niece, Tara, and I rode over with Buddy, Tina and Amy. They are technically family…while Tara and I are friends of the heart. [Tara and Jayna, Shirl’s daughter, have remained dear friends even though they live apart.] So, Tara and I made our way to the back to sit. We wanted to be nearby, but not intrusive. From our vantage point, we could see almost everyone who came in. And, it struck me as so wonderful how every. single. person. who came in was greeted with a hug or 2 or 6 from everyone they passed as they made their way down the aisle. Some were family…some were not. Didn’t matter…everyone there loved this sweet lady, and that made us all friends. There was none of this shaking hands and quiet,solemn feeling. Everyone who walked in was a part of the ‘family’.
There were 2 gentlemen (pastors) who spoke…as did Shirley. And, Shirl’s son-in-law, Paulo, added so much to the worship during the service. He is such a talented young man and loves to share his talent with others. He played the piano and sang. He chose, “It Is Well With My Soul”, and “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”. These are such songs of faith and joy! Perfect for the day.
I thought as I sat and waited for the service to begin…just how wonderful it is to be with God’s people. There is a song we sing at times, The Family of God. It says…”I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God…Washed in the Fountain, cleansed by His Blood…Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod…For, I’m part of the family, the Family of God.” Now what is so wonderful about this is the fact that wherever or whenever you encounter another Christian, it feels as if you already know enough about them to become immediate friends. When there is so much loneliness and isolation in the world today…this is a real blessing. I saw this in action at the Manry Funeral Home today in Blakely, GA. And, I have seen it played out many times before. God draws people unto Himself, and He desires that we meet together. It may be for worship, or celebration, for study or play. It also can be for a time such as this…the funeral of someone we hold dear. Whatever the case…There is God…right in the middle of the group! One of His promises is …”if 2 or more of you are gathered IN MY NAME…there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. And, that’s where the Son came from today. Two or three…or 100 or 150. It matters not.
A sad occasion…but a time for rejoicing, as well. Her life was well lived, her family could only praise her, her friends were many, and she knew Jesus…well. So today, she is with the One who made her life sing…she is with Jesus! And, the comfort this brings is overwhelming.
This post is written for, and dedicated to the Davis, Vargas, and Summerlin Families…in memory and love of Mrs Ollie Manion…beloved of them all.