TOO LITTLE TOO LATE
When a friend died after a long illness, I experienced much guilt. I had not been a faithful friend in showing her how much I cared.
We grew up together in one of those small rural communities where children played from home to home up and down the little country road without fear. After the mailman passed, it was rare that a vehicle came through. If we heard one coming, we left our playhouse, grapevine swing, or barn loft and raced to the roadside to watch it go by — not minding the dust — just to see who was passing and to wave "Hello" whether we knew them or not.
We usually ran in packs of six or so—we had more fun that way. We didn’t necessarily stay at one house for long. Mothers didn’t seem to worry—houses were close and we could usually be heard along the way. Perhaps by mid-afternoon one of us would remember that her mother had made teacakes that day or that some molasses bread had been left at "dinner" (lunch) time. An afternoon snack could be found somewhere on our rounds, and good cool fresh spring water was always available in several places in the community.
The springs were special places where several families might put their milk to cool in molasses buckets for a supper of sweet milk and cornbread. The springs were good gathering spots to play. The ladies did their week’s washing there, too. It was simply understood that Mrs. So-and-So washed on Mondays, another on Tuesdays, and so on. And as hard as their chores must have been, these same ladies at sometime during the week usually found time for an afternoon visit with a neighbor, often taking along clothes to mend or vegetables to shell. Tasks were lightened by a neighborly visit and/or a helping hand.
The bonds of friendship among the children grew stronger as we grew older. It was a sad day when a family moved — usually to "make a crop" in another community. School consolidation brought some of us together again, but other milestones came and we became separated, often not seeing each other for several years. When we did meet again, the warm ties of childhood friendship picked up just where we had left off, and as we matured, we became more aware of the impact of these loving friendships.
In our childhood play, as in most groups of children at play, one child seemed to assume the role of peace-maker. The friend I mentioned in opening, Opal, was the one who soothed hurt feelings and kept everyone happy.
As the years passed and we all became involved with families of our own, our contacts were infrequent. The first news from Opal in a long time was of serious illness. With the first shocking news, I hastened to get a card and note off, letting her know I was thinking of her and remembering her in my prayers — and, yes, hoping to visit. But other things crowded in and that planned for visit was moved further back.
The next news was of surgery. Again, off with a note and card — but still no visit. Where does time go? What could possibly be more important than being together to share the hurt of the pain and the uncertainty of the future?
Then, thankfully, news came that Opal was out and about. What a welcome message! It gladdened my heart and soothed my conscience.
Later the words drifted through that all was not well — the disease had resurfaced; in fact, this time it was much worse than ever before. Again I followed the same pattern —the card, maybe a bit more carefully chosen, and a note, with words also more carefully chosen and the inevitable promise to visit.
Then all too soon came the dreaded word — death. And the questions came: Was I really that busy or did I not care as much as I professed to? Did the cards and notes — such easy gestures — become meaningless? (I had even dodged the personal contact of the telephone.) Wouldn’t time sitting together sharing memories have been time well spent? Had she needed to talk of the illness with someone who understood and cared and would cry with her?
Then — what can I do now? flowers to appease my conscience? a visit to the funeral home? a trip to the funeral? But nothing really eases the feeling of guilt. When I could have spent time with her, I didn’t, and now it is too late. Easy gestures and promises not kept were small comfort. And the most haunting question is: Was I really too busy or was it that I could not bring myself to face my friend who was dying and we both knew it? If I resolve to do better the next time, will I? Or will I still hide behind a quick note, unable to face knowing time is short?
I have thought and said that one is surely blessed if she/he has just one friend to whom feelings can be openly expressed — with tears if need be. It distresses us to see dear ones struggling in an effort to make the bad go away, and sometimes we fail to offer our comfort.
Can I begin even now to prepare myself to be more supportive in the future and ask God to help me know just which actions would be best in particular circumstances? By His life and His words Jesus showed us how to be friends: "A friend loveth at all times." "A friend who sticketh closer than a brother." "Do not forsake your friend." Only time will tell if I can be the friend I profess to be.
These thoughts have continued to haunt me for sometime. I felt that if I shared them and perhaps helped someone else to see and answer a need, then my failure to act would not be a total loss.
"Pre-arrangement? At my age?"
Yes! Today, more people are recognizing that pre-arrangement is a thoughtful and prudent decision, one that should not be postponed. They have learned that pre-arranging the funeral service is a demonstration of love and consideration that can ease the anxieties of their families.
Funding the pre-arranged service heightens the wisdom of the decision. Funding protects your resources from the impact of inflation... permitting you to pre-arrange, at present-day prices, exactly the kind of service you prefer... and be assured an adequate fund for the future payment. We shall be pleased to provide informed counsel and attentive answers to your questions... and, literature that will be helpful to you and those close to you.
May each of you and all those you love find warmth in your time of Thanksgiving, joy and peace in the Christmas season, and happiness throughout the new year.
As this issue of SEASONS is being prepared in early November, signs of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are already appearing, and all too soon this season will have come and gone, leaving behind only memories. Although this issue of SEASONS is not being devoted to thoughts about Thanksgiving and Christmas as have been past fall issues, our wishes are no less heartfelt.
During this season, we are always mindful of those who are experiencing their first holiday season since the loss of someone they loved. We have several items which we think will be helpful to these folks, and we will send these materials to those we have served since last Christmas. If you know of others who you think would benefit from these materials, please call the Funeral Home and we will be glad to forward the materials as you suggest.
We dedicate this issue of SEASONS to those who have died and whose families we have served from July 30, 1990. to November 18, 1990.
Mr. Herschel M. Cranford, Sr. 7/30/90
Mr. Warren Buford Mathis 8/1/90
Mr. Stanley Gerald Knight 8/3/90
Mr. Michael Joseph Knight 8/7/90
Mrs. Mary Christine Truett 8/8/90
Mrs. Gladys Gertrude Connell 8/8/90
Mrs. Grace Cooper Crockett 8/10/90
Mr. Alexander Joseph Kiamie 8/11/90
Mr. John Frank Ragland 8/12/90
Mr. Robert Lawrence McDougal 8/13/90
Mr. Keith Dean Grose 8/13/90
Mr. Clelon Eugene Harris 8/18/90
Shea Allen Sullivan 8/22/90
Mrs. Mary Janet Reilly 8/30/90
Mr. L. D. "Doc" King 9/2/90
Mr. Howard Berry Patton 9/7/90
Mr. Dudley Earl Freeman, Sr. 9/7/90
Mr. David Delaine Moore 9/12/90
Mrs. Mary Sue Wait 9/13/90
Mr. Charles Donald Johnston 9/19/90
Mr. A. R. "Robbie" Robinson 9/19/90
Mr. Daniel Eric Breazeale 9/20/90
Mr. Hubert Wayland Davis 9/26/90
Mrs. Sammie White Mayfield 9/29/90
Mr. Walker Hassell Smith 10/2/90
Dr. Larry D. Givens 10/3/90
Mrs. Cora Lee Deal 10/4/90
Mrs. Alma Henley Stead 10/5/90
Mr. William Winfield Robertson 10/13/90
Mrs. Robbie Coleman Shipp 10/19/90
Mrs. Katie Johnstone Barry 10/25/90
Mr. Peter Anthony Turner 10/27/90
Mr. John Robert Cofield, Jr. 11/5/90
Dr. Ellis Eugene Tucker 11/6/90
Mrs. Anna Mae Sykes 11/11/90
Mr. Edgar Harold Overstreet 11/12/90
Mrs. Connie Mae Brown 11/14/90
Jeffrey Scott Hill 11/15/90
Mrs. Sarah Beatrice Tuttle 11/15/90
Mrs. Anna H. Hovious 11/17/90
A FRIEND…WHO STANDS BY
When troubles come your soul to try,
You love the friend who just stands by,
Perhaps there’s nothing he can do,
The thing is strictly up to you.
For there are troubles all your own,
And paths the soul must tread alone,
Times when love can’t smooth the road,
Nor friendship lift the heavy load.
But just to feel you have a friend
Who will stand by until the end.
Whose sympathy through all endures,
Whose warm handclasp is always yours,
It helps somehow to pull you through,
Although there’s nothing he can do;
And so with fervent heart we cry,
"God bless the friend who just stands by."