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Monday, January 6, 2014

Top Ten: A True Celebration

Dear Mom,

Your funeral was amazing! Obviously I am biased, but we got enough positive feedback that I can tell it was truly special to many of your friends, relatives and frelatives. And it's a good thing! Rev. Whitehead said that was the fullest he'd ever seen Centenary -- not sure if he goes back to the late 70s or early 80s, but either way, WOW! That church was packed...people even sat on the stairs!

Many times people call a funeral a "celebration of life," but I feel like yours really and truly was. It was full of joy and laughter, with (hopefully) just enough poignant moments.

Here are a few highlights, with apologies for anything or anyone I've left out:

10. Your notebook. It was so cool you left us a (somewhat cryptic) road map of your wishes in your "filing cabinet," also known as the piano bench. And it was so nice that I got a chance to discuss it with you in November, so we could make sure we were all in sync, including the obit. The preacher did a great job incorporating the church life nuggets you'd written down, and he told us it was a tremendous help to have everything so well thought out. It's also in your unmistakable handwriting, which is its own treasure.

9. The seating. It was perfect to have the Subers and Bateses (and of course Cookie and Matt) seated with the family. We did not file in using the diagram you had provided, but the end result was just right. Someone else who was there will likely see you before I will to tell you what happened, and you will get a big chuckle out of it. Trust me.

8. The reception. We bagged your lunch idea, though we loved it that you had a) planned the Southern Picnic menu and provided serving line instructions: "serve from BOTH SIDES", and b) told us we would be expected to pay to have it catered to reduce the burden on your friends. (Gosh...I am just realizing maybe I need to be sure we save that congealed salad dish you always used for funeral food!). Anyway, given the way things played out, it made more sense to skip the stress of the big lunch. You always taught us to adjust on the fly, so I know you would have approved. I heard the post-service reception may be considered a new "best practice," as it let people eat and visit while we spoke to everybody. (Wish you could have seen the gorgeous arrangement of pink roses from Juliane and Debbie. Stunning, just stunning. Just like Jules in her St. John suit!)

7. Best dressed. This would be a tie in the St. John suit department, between Babs and Jules. (Babs said, "I'm sure your friend's suit wasn't a hand-me-down from her mother!" She doesn't know what a bargain hunter J is...but sometimes you just have to pony up. I have already put my name down to inherit Juliane's suit, but perhaps she'll help me pick out one of my own in the meantime. And I'll have to tell Miss Patsy the "Le Cirque story" about Barb's suit!) I did not see Miss Kay, but I am sure Quincy's own Joan Collins was dressed to the 9s and looked as stunning as her altar flowers, which were exactly the white and greenery knockout you requested. (I must note that when she dropped off the flowers that morning, she was still in her "natural state." LOL.)

I wore the Dior scarf from Adam, and Leigh Ann wore her new custom-tailored charcoal suit and dress from that tiny tailor in Vietnam.

6. James Scott. Leigh Ann and I had asked Dad to invite James to meet us in the parlor and sit with the family, but something got lost in translation. He was the first one inside the church, at 12:30! We didn't know he was there until we got up for the eulogy. He was directly in our line of sight and waved at us as big as pie. I "broke character" and waved right back! After the service, we processed right by him, so both Leigh Ann and I leaned down to hug his neck. After everyone else started doing the same, he just popped up and got into the line! Right where he was supposed to be. "What a hoot!" as you would say. He tickled our friends by working that Fellowship Hall in his brand-new suit.

I hadn't seen James since I ran into him at Winn Dixie last year, when he suggested you load up on his favorite cancer cure: chocolate ice cream.

5. Our besties. Our friends are amazing! Yours are too...but I can't begin to list those, as I'm not as familiar with them. (And you had a strong family turnout...a great tribute to the way you've maintained those relationships, which would make Grandmama and Paw Paw so proud.) LA's Charlotte gang drove down (Lisa tried her hardest to get there from the west coast, but it was just too much...and Melissa's dad is sick, so she could not be there), as did Peggy and Charles. My out of town guests were Neil, Hilary, Barb and Scotty, plus Amanda, who flew in from Greenville and acted as my "maid of honor" bringing me stockings, a lint roller and mints. (Oh -- and Amanda ran into Neil at Walmart! She recognized him from Facebook -- or the fact that he looked a little out of place in the Quincy Walmart. Is that hilarious or what? The only thing that could have made it better is if she'd seen him at Winn Dixie shopping for goat cheese, dates or shallots.)

Charlotte Road Warriors: Rebecca, Mary Neal and Joann with LAS.

'98 Blue Devils: Hilary (D.C.), Neil (NYC), LSS, Babs (Dallas), and Scotty (D.C. via Destin)

'94 Bobcats: Ranie, Kimmie P., and Amanda (not pictured: Anna, Jay, and maybe someone else who will forgive me because it's all a blur)

4. Your classmates. There was a great turnout of your QHS classmates, which I think says a lot about the way you've been the glue to keep that group together. They didn't give you that Miss Congeniality title in 1967 for nothing! Kay Sykes said you helped her feel connected to Quincy, and I think a lot of people would agree. Belinda hosted a Sunday night gathering at her house, and Frances worked the phone to make sure the word got out.

1967 Senior Superlatives
Most Anticipated Introduction: Winston Chester
Funniest Story Told in Receiving Line: Tom Buttram (You on phone: "Frances! I've got company! Come over and see who it is!" DIAL TONE.)
Least Changed: Mary Ann Crouch (not pictured)
Most Changed: Name withheld to protect the innocent, but ask me when you see me!

3. Ithaka. Everybody who was there knows Mr. Blucher's reading of Ithaka was lovely. But what they don't know is that when I called him to ask him to do it -- despite the fact y'all had never discussed it -- he he said, "I love that poem. It's funny you should mention it. I have it in my calendar at work." Another "Cheryl Thing." (He also told me the "olive story," which Barb made her own when she o.d.'d on his calamata dip Sunday night: "Yeeks. I've pulled a Cheryl. I filled up on the olive dip and can't eat my dinner!")

People also do not know you clipped that poem out of the Tallahassee Democrat in 1993 when Maurice Templesman read it at Jackie O's funeral. You taped the original clipping for us in the notebook. Debbie E. is now fascinated with it too and sent me this clip of Sean Connery reading it. Lovely.

2. The music. After Leigh Ann and did the eulogy at Mimi's funeral in 2008, you said, "You girls did an excellent, excellent job with that eulogy, but your Aunt Judith and Anne stole the show with their song!" Amen to that! You were absolutely right. On that note, Aunt Judith asked if you'd like "River in Judea" for your funeral as well, but I think Ave Maria was absolutely the right choice, as the accompanist was out of town until Sunday, so Judith really didn't get a true rehearsal. She was so cool, calm and collected about it. It was amazing and a big gift to you and us.

It may have looked effortless, but Patsy's piano music took hours of practice and careful selection. As Miss Virginia put it:
The service yesterday was so perfect that I can't recall the best part - of course the two of you are #1 and Patsy playing the piano was #2.
While Patsy was playing, I thought about your mother saying how good, how generous, how kind Patsy and Mark are and certainly that was  very evident since your Mom had gotten so sick.  How fortunate y'all and your Mother
are to have the Bates and Betty and Billy and Ranie - true friends.
1. Show & Tell. In order to avoid "tooting my own horn," I'll let Sheriff Mixon cover it, as he drove down from Ozark. "U and Leigh Ann hit a grand slam home run. I am so proud of y'all. Can I file adoption papers on her too? I love u little girl!!!" Leigh Ann and I couldn't hear it, but apparently some of the (many) students joined in on the Cherylisms that wrapped up our eulogy. Doing Grandmama's and Mimi's eulogies was great practice, and the third time was the charm. We are now retired from the eulogy business, as there is no way we could ever top yours.

I can't say it too many times, Mama...I just wish you'd been there. You would have loved it.

Com MUITO saudade,


1 comment:

Sheila said...

And so it is..........peace and love!!