My grandmother Esther passed away on December 22nd in 2000. She was laid to rest at Long & Fisher Funeral Home in Sissonville, West Virginia. It was bitter cold.
The funeral home had an interesting layout. The building was immediately adjacent to the cemetery. When the service was concluded, the pall bearers carried the casket to a hearse and it was carried, at best, half a mile to the grave site. The day was, as I said, bitter cold so the small group of us, friends and family, gathered for a brief service. Each person had a flower and, as the graveside service was concluded, they laid the flower on Grandma Esther’s casket.
Now there stands my father Darrell, as always, true to himself. He is politically liberal, raised blue collar, earned several degrees over his life but never lost his roots, and was always a union man.
As the guests left their flowers they headed off to the warmth of the funeral home for cookies and coffee and reminiscing. My dad however, stayed at the gravesite.
Off to the side there sat the big concrete vault that would be lowered over the casket. Nearby was a backhoe and several men, trying to be inconspicuous.
So Darrell, being Darrell, started to chat with the men. Comments like, “Are you in a union?” and “It’s certainly cold out here.” He also shared details from his life; he had been raised in the hills around those parts.
Finally the last of the other guests headed in and it was just Darrell (dad), myself, and the cemetery workers who stood looking, a tad confused, as dad spoke with them.
Finally dad said to them, and this is one of those lines I will never forget, “Guys, I know what comes next. It’s cold out here; let’s get this wrapped up.”
At that the men came over and turned the cranks that lowered Esther’s casket into the ground. Then the backhoe was used to lower the vault on top of the casket. The men, to their credit, kept glancing at dad and chatting with him while they did their job. They were respectful;. they were not heaving dirt and such about carelessly.
At this point dad says, “Guys, it’s cold out here and I know you want to go home and warm up; I know what the shovels are for.” At this the men began to shovel the dirt into the hole. After a few minutes of this, rather slow process, dad follows up with, “Guys, I know what the backhoe is for; it’s ok.”
The men, cautiously, and if you can be gentle while running a two and a half ton machine, gently, used the machine to push the rest of the dirt into the grave.
Their task finished, one man drove the backhoe away and the rest of us stood quietly for a moment. Then my father, who had been so completely under control until this time, walked up to the mound of dirt. He was crying, He laid his flower on the dirt and he said, “There you go mom, I did what I said I would, I saw you all the way home.”
That is how you say goodbye, well done Darrell.
RIP still Grandma…