Pictured above are Terry Robbins and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Loyed. Terry assisted Mr. and Mrs. Loyed in their recent purchase of cemetery lots at Eastover Memorial Cemetery. Purchasing cemetery lots prior to need is a form of pre-arrangement. If we can be of service to you in selecting a cemetery lot or talking further about pre-arrangement, feel free to call on us.
Wearing a Different Hat
In June my daddy’s youngest and last surviving brother, Uncle Ora Hardin, died at his home in Hernando At that time we were involved in funeral plans as family members —not in our usual role as funeral directors. Although we have been involved with funerals "wearing two hats" as both members of the family and funeral directors several times since we have had our funeral home, this was the first time in twenty years we had been involved only as members of the family at a death in our immediate family. I believe that this experience made me a better funeral director, and I want to share some of the emotions and memories that Uncle Ora’s death — as the death of someone close always does —brought to me and to share how being a member of the bereaved family increased my understanding of a family’s feelings at the time of a death.
Uncle Ora wasn’t old, only 74. When my math showed he was only 18 years older than I, I was surprised. Because he was my uncle and of my father’s generation, the age span had always seemed much greater. Being only about five feet tall, Uncle Ora was known to many as ‘Shorty", but I never felt comfortable saying "Uncle Shorty". It seemed disrespectful. True, he was short of stature, yet he was a man above so many in other ways. His heart was so big and was so busy making way for others that it is no wonder it wore out.
Don and I went up to Hernando right after Aunt Jewell called to tell us of his death and of funeral plans. There was no real reason to go that day except that I simply wanted to feel and return that big, warm, loving hug that always came with Aunt Jewell. When we arrived she was in the midst of planning the last details of the service, much of which had already been wisely preplanned. At the same time she was hearing updates on when her three sons, three daughters, their children and grandchildren would be arriving.
Uncle Ora had had a heart condition for a number of years. Several weeks before he died he experienced very severe hardening of the arteries with all the sadness that brings. Before he became so very ill, he had asked Aunt Jewell and the children to let him be at home if they could. As one of the sons said, "We worked it out for him just as he had done for all of us for so long." Sitting listening to those already there and Aunt Jewell talk of those last few weeks and the sadness they brought, I had chills of emotion as I realized how much a family goes through before they get to us at the funeral home. As Aunt Jewell told how he had simply slipped away ever so peacefully as she sat on their bed holding his head in her lap telling him she loved him, I was again jolted as I thought, "I’m not the funeral director—I’m part of all that is happening to these dear people."
As funeral directors, we follow a similar plan with each family up to a point — then we vary as is appropriate. We needed to be reminded just what it is to say "Goodbye" to someone we love and at the same time to plan a funeral to commemorate the dear one. All this activity takes place with a breaking heart. At times it may almost slip past us just how many other things the family is coping with at the same time —like getting a daughter and family home from a vacation (The daughter just the day before had broken a leg.) and getting a son from Lakewood, California, and a grandchild from camp, and ever so many other details. The reminder written in shorthand and attached to my desk, "Remember it is not just another funeral" seems even more meaningful now. As funeral directors, we may work with several families at the same time, but each one must have special attention.
As each family member arrived in Hernando, the heartache surfaced again, and memories of happier times began flooding my thoughts. So many good memories during my childhood and into the present include Uncle Ora. He was a natural wit. He had a way of expressing his deepest thoughts with so much humor that if you were not careful in your laughter you missed out on something very special and meaningful. I have some detailed notes of those times we went to Arkansas to visit Uncle Ora and his family before they moved to Hernando and of trips we made to attend reunions of Daddy’s family. Those times as a child were exciting excursions to places like Arkadelphia, where I had my first merry-go-round ride (The merry-go-round was turned by a horse pulling around in circles.); Blytheville; Turrell; or to just wherever the most of the family were at the time.
Daddy, Uncle Boyd (who died in 1975) and Uncle Ora shared a deep love, and they were never shy as men in expressing this love through embraces. They were quite the jokesters when the three were together. No one ever called it "Can You Top This?" when they spun yarns or told "remember-whens", but that is what at times they seemed to be playing. When they told of having tomato gravy and cornbread for breakfast as little boys before going to the cottonfields to work long days and then coming home to help their sharecropper blacksmith father do household chores (My grandmother died when Uncle Ora was 9.), they made it sound like fun times and not hard times — as it must surely have been. Once in all seriousness I asked Daddy if times had not been really hard, and he said, "Sure, Sweetheart, but everyone around us was like that." They enjoyed the colorful telling of countless escapades. But some memories were serious. As Daddy told how good their father was to them in giving them his last quarter to buy a cold drink at the store on a Saturday night, he had tears in his eyes.
In 1963 when Daddy had his first heart attack, the Oxford-Lafayette County Medical Center had just opened. It did not have an Intensive Care Unit, but Daddy’s room was designated as strictly "No Visitors." Uncle Ora and Aunt Jewell came, and Uncle Ora said, "I know I can’t see Jess, but I just want to stand outside his door for a while." Five years later when Daddy suffered the fatal attack, everyone came again. This time as Uncle Ora and I stood beside Daddy’s casket, he said, "Now, Pat, you know I don’t have much, but I can help you girls get anything you need."
Uncle Ora’s heart was generous when Ava and Eddie with five-month-old Jessica moved to Hernando in 1969 for their first teaching positions. Aunt Jewell and Uncle Ora insisted they come live with them until they could "get settled," saying, "We were young once." Ava and Eddie bought a mobile home, and, with Uncle Ora’s help, got it all established. Aunt Jewell and one of her daughters took care of Jessica, which left Ava worry-free about the care of her first little one.
Our memories include Thanksgiving dinners when Ava and I and our families were included because, as Uncle Ora and Aunt Jewell said, "You girls don’t have a home to go to, so you come be with us." Uncle Ora had wisely purchased a very large older house on a beautifully shaded lot one block from downtown Hernando. It’s just the kind of house grandparents are supposed to live in. He used his building skills to improve it with all the comforts and made it so right for many, many to congregate on special occasions. I wonder now if he made the big dining table, which is wide enough for two people to be seated comfortably at each end. We all recall one Thanksgiving when after the blessing as we stood in a family circle around the table, Aunt Jewell waved her hand at shelves around two walls and said, ‘Now there are some pies and cakes in here and more out in the pantry if you don’t like one of these." We counted eleven in the dining room, including as always, fresh pumpkin pie with real whipped cream, and eight more in the pantry. We recall even more vividly than the delicious food we ate the sweet fellowship of this already big family who so unselfishly let us be a part. Food was secondary. I often walked through the rooms from table to table (Yes, she seated everyone!) checking out my cousins who either had new babies or new in-law children (I’d rather say in-love; it is so much softer.) or new grandchildren. You see, with Uncle Ora’s six, he had children from almost my age to even younger than Ava. As Ava, Eddie, and their three children and Don and I with our children blended into all the others from far and near as part of ‘the family’, we were a part of a most special group.
But to get back to telling about the funeral — which is my main point. One of Uncle Ora’s nephews, Doug Hardin, now a Methodist minister (Uncle Ora said, "The boy just slipped a bit from his Baptist raising; he’s still all right.) gave a beautiful, brief eulogy. He expressed so well feelings all of us shared. Ava sang "There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place" and then in closing, "How Great Thou Art". All of his family had wanted the service to be a time of celebration of his life. The instrumentalists used the hymns "Victory in Jesus," "When They Ring Those Golden Bells," and the forever beautiful "Amazing Grace". His pastor, assisted by a member of the church staff, conducted the service.
In my own personal grief there was a certain amount of guilt. I wished we had stopped by more often, but time often seemed pushing so we would wait until the next time. On one of the brief visits while he still felt like his old self, I asked a few leading questions and he began telling of some choice experiences. I scribbled on an envelope some notes as he told of his and Uncle Boyd’s coming from Arkansas to Mississippi as teenagers to visit Daddy and our family. They spent a nickel each to ride a streetcar through Memphis to be sure they got out on the right side and weren’t headed for St. Louis in their hitchhiking. He also told of when Mother and Daddy took them visiting and the lady of the house sent them to get a bucket of water. They had never seen a dug well — only pitcher pumps — so Uncle Boyd, being the older, said to Uncle Ora, "We’ll match for it, but it don’t make any difference how it comes out, I’m not going down in that hole." He said they had pepper soup (another name for thickin’ gravy) for supper.
Why hadn’t we taken more time, even back when Daddy was here, to learn more of their early lives? Do thoughts like these always accompany death — a looking back, wishing for another opportunity’? Whether as with Uncle Ora we have several weeks of anticipation, though not knowing just when, or, as with Daddy, we have no immediate warning —here with one breath and with the Lord the next!
As funeral directors we often go into the home immediately following the service when all the family are gathered back together with close friends and often the minister. I have felt that this is an integral part of all that makes up the funeral. After Uncle Ora’s service, by some chance I happened to be briefly in the dining room alone. I sat down at the huge table laden with food so lovingly prepared by their friends and relived the beauty of the memories. Then one of the sons came through, and we talked of his life and how much of it he gave to others.
During all that made up Uncle Ora’s funeral service, the question came often to me, "Why have a funeral?" I’ve been asked this question a number of times — sometimes by skeptics, possibly expecting to initiate argument, but also by others, quite obviously sincere. To make it more difficult, a generation, some of whom have never attended a funeral service and certainly not a service for a family member, is now beginning to make arrangements for funeral services. They truly don’t understand the visitation of friends and the services and the purposes they serve. Personally, I was grateful for the opportunity the funeral provided for me to be with my uncle’s family and other relatives saying "Goodbye." It was good for me to hear his pastor’s comments of commendation on Uncle Ora’s life as a Christian witness in his community, how he used his craftsmanship as a builder to be helpful in the church building maintenance. The funeral procession was, as always, one of the most touching parts of the funeral service to me. To be a part of the procession from the church or funeral home to the cemetery which says to the community that someone loved and respected is being buried is a privilege. In our small towns the courtesy of the law enforcement officials — providing escorts, controlling traffic, and giving honor by standing at attention — shows respect to that one who died and to the family who mourn as they approach the last rite — the committal service. The Calmat service too is so important in the funeral. Here in Oxford a gentleman whose parents died within a week of each other said to me after their services that hereafter when at all possible he would go on to the cemetery because he remembered those who were there better than those who were present at any other time.
Why have a funeral? It is a part of a healing process which must come at some point. It helps loved ones to accept the reality of death and to have hope for the future.
Why be a funeral director? To assist in whatever way possible those left to experience their grief and to help them think of all the details and carry them out in order that the one they loved may have the respect in death which he/she had in life.
Why attend funerals? To give support to the family and in our own relationship with that one gain help in saying our own farewell.
We know that when breath leaves, we as Christians are with the Lord and that neither a funeral nor any other happening does anything for that one who has died. However, the funeral is a tribute to that one and it serves a purpose in the healing process of grief for family and friends. I know Uncle Ora’s funeral helped me.
We dedicate this issue of SEASONS to those who have died and whose families we have served from May 24, 1988 to August 21, 1988.
Mr. James L. Hodges, Sr / May 24, 1988
Mrs. Doris Sockwell Hollowell / May 26, 1988
Mrs. Wanna Bland Busby / May 27, 1988
Mrs. Lucile Allen Galloway / June 2, 1988
Mr. Donald Keith Edwards / June 2, 1988
Mrs. Ona Louise Holmes Mathis / June 18, 1988
Mr. James W. "Buddy" Davis / June 18, 1988
Mrs. Marilyn Martha Miller Bunn / June 19, 1988
Mrs. Maude Jackson Wood / June 20, 1988
Mr. Frank David Morrison / June 23, 1988
Mr. Paul E. "Pep" Patterson / June 24, 1988
Mrs. Clytie Campbell Pierce / June 25, 1988
Ms. Bonnie Carol Ferrell Lewis / June 28, 1988
Mrs. Bernice Hartsfield Ramage / July 4, 1988
Commander Thomas Michael DuBois / July 6, 1988
Mr. Ernest Ancil Dalton / July 7, 1988
Mrs. Daisy Eckles Pierce / July 9, 1988
Mr. Lonnie Sledge / July 14, 1988
Mrs. Cratie Lovelady Irby / July 14, 1988
Miss Hessie Mildred Welch / July 27, 1988
Mrs. Lora Harwell Coleman / August 3, 1988
Mrs. Mariada Huffaker McCall / August 9, 1988
Mrs. Minnie Thweatt Dulin / August 9, 1988
Mrs. lola Anderson Drewrey / August 13, 1988
Mrs. Grace Wimbish Oxford / August 14, 1988
Mrs. Robbie Gilbert Teasley / August 14, 1988
Mr. Joseph Lyford Baldwin / August 17, 1988
Mr. Howard Wayne Webb / August 17, 1988
Mrs. Lillian McKinley Pruitt / August 19, 1988