Red Neck Funeral
Now our family is a little red-neck. I mean I come from a lineage of pioneers, homesteaders, and entrepreneurs who braved the west and made a life on the open Prairie. Most of my family lived on farms or at least out in the country. It is actually inspiring for me to hear the stories of our previous family line. Now generally, we only get together at reunions, wedding and occasionally funerals. This week, I got a phone call that would bring us all together…mom called and said in a sad voice, “Uncle Gordon passed away.” Emotions swing, mood changes and you ponder, when was the last time I saw him? Did I leave him with an encouragement? Was I kind? What did he say? What did I say? Did I give him a hug before we left?
My Uncle Gordon was a wonderful man of almost 90 years- my mother’s oldest sister’s husband. I remember going over to visit Uncle Gordon and Aunt Gladys. A school teacher by trade, but gardener by passion, I would generally see him outside tending his flower beds or pulling weeds in his garden. Uncle Gordon moved from the city to the country and lived there for quite some time. I remember visiting them north of Lloydminster, as far north as the road went, where they were instrumental in starting a small “brethren” type of church. It was a very small church, and the very small community where he lived. I remember his passion for people, his generosity in letting us drive snowmobiles across the meadows and on the lake. He was a very hospitable man and very kind. I was glad to be honoring him at his funeral.
So yesterday, our family piled in the car and headed for the funeral. We were all dressed to the nines as a sign of respect to my aunt and planned on going to very traditional rural service. When we got there, I was shocked and guess I shouldn’t have been knowing my red-neck family. The first thing I noticed was the grave site, a few miles out of a tiny hamlet, so we just all pulled off onto the grass. We were the only car, everyone else was in pick-up trucks or SUV’s (first sign of red-neckness-trucks)- so you can imagine how we stood out. As I looked, there were folks in cowboy hats and wranglers, there were only two of us in ties, myself in a blazer and my poor brother-in-law who was feeling very much out of place as I was (second sign-western wear).
On top of that (no word of a lie), Uncle Gordon was in a handmade casket in the back of a pick up truck (third sign- caskets in pick-up trucks). I wasn’t quite sure if I was mortified or inquisitive, fortunately it wasn’t an open casket- I can’t imagine what he had on. We gathered together on the grass, my cousin’s husband gave the eulogy, we said a few words, cried a few tears, my second cousin broke out the acoustic and sang a hymn. We hammered some wooden plugs into the casket, and a few of us (including myself) gathered ropes around the casket (fourth sign-roping a casket) and we dropped him in the grave. We tried to recite Psalm 23 from memory (which was a tragedy) and sprinkled some dirt on him and then broke out some sandwiches on the tailgate of the truck 9fifth sign-tailgate parties) where his coffin had previously been. It doesn’t get much more red-neck than that.
The lesson from this red-neck funeral was this- in spite of their red-neck ways, my family really cares about one another. Even in their rather unique ways, they love one another, pick up trucks, wranglers and all. It reminds me that Jesus was probably at a few red-neck funerals in his day. Jesus came full of compassion to his friend Lazarus’s funeral and said, “I am the resurrection and the life, Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” At Jesus’ command, Lazarus came out, grave clothes and all the folks were all amazed. Uncle Gordon, you may have been a red-neck but you loved Jesus, and you left a whole lot of red-necks to share the gospel.