Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Death & Dying (Revisited)

I recently lost my grandfather. I had no idea how I would actually feel...seeing him there, or rather, seeing his body there laying in repose. Instead of weeping to the empty shell that lay in such an ornate box, I remembered the little things he did that made him our "Grandchester". As we pulled up to the church, I looked at all my beautiful relatives, dressed in black and silver. We all tried to keep our faces clear because we wanted to be strong for each other, but we HAD to cry... Our family's monarch was no longer with us anymore. This man was great, not one of those "funeral greats": You know how people who attend funerals and speak about the great things that the deceased was, and that person was actually a hellion?

My grandfather was great. He loved God, and he served his Church and his community daily. The events leading up to and happening in the actual funeral were quite interesting. I'll say this and only this about a former minister: It's amazing how someone so closely linked to another man through a church can stand up and speak on a man as if he had no soul. Big words and letters behind your name does not qualify you to treat or mistreat anyone. Those same letters behind your name does not afford you a certain right to be smug with anyone. And the overuse of the word "protocol" does not make you look or seem of more intelligence that anyone else. You ever meet people who learn a few words out of the English dictionary that are larger than two syllables and they begin using it like it's going out of style? (Ahem, I digress...)

But about crying...I watched people, and I learned to sense what their 'hearts' were sensing. People weep and cry out as a way of expressing themselves. There's a time for everything. Funerals excite and aggravate me, because as I've said before, sometimes people like to feel that they're mourning more than the other person. But, I think Ministers try to offer the bereaved family some hope in saying, "don't waste your tears, He (She) is in a better place." That may be so, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. There is time for us to weep and mourn.

I'm sorry, this is my blog, and I have to express this. So, when you love someone, it's expressed in so many ways, but never have I seen a man who seemed to have lacked love than my former Pastor. He stood up at the pulpit and delivered directions from the order of service with this uninterested, uninspired, unmoved look on his face, and I thought to myself, "Wow, is this the man of God that I followed for 8 years?" I tried not to focus on him so much, but I thought about my grandfather's fight, spiritually and physically, and now I'm reminded of my great-grandmother's journey of 101 years, and during both funerals, this "Man'd of God" (I don't know why Southern Preachers put the D on the end of Man...) But this "Man'd of God" stood up there, same church, same time of day, different year, with the same stank look on his face, speaking curtly about protocol and procedures and following the program as follows...

I understand the significance of following an order of service, and being mindful of the bereaved family, but in times of sorrow, I understand these are the reasons we rely and lean upon the Lord, because man, namely this preacher man, did not show even the slightest interest in loving on the family, offering support, or thinking back on the memory of his beloved brother, my grandfather, Chester Kemp, Sr.

Incompetence all around...

It rained as we approached the cemetery. After we gather, and my Uncle prayed, and people said their last goodbyes after pulling flowers from the sprays that were giving in my grandfather's memory, a few of us stayed behind to watch the funeral directors put Grandchester's remains into the ground. This was unique because I'd never seen the process of fitting a casket into a vault. As the workers, who I assume worked grave to grave, as they were lowering my grandfather into the ground by an electric crank, the crank gave out and the casket was stuck in the middle of the hole. A worker decided to manually help the casket down, by leaning over the hole and pulling the straps down, exposing his "CRACK" and almost falling into the hole with the casket. If my uncles had not been there, He would've been in that hole with my Grandchester. After my uncles helped him out, the funeral directors were like, "Why are you folks even here?" He stated that us being there watching made his workers nervous. I thought to myself, they're just shame because they can't do their jobs correctly. Grown men, being nervous... They were nervous that if they made any mistakes they probably might've been buried on that same day as well.

People, sometimes, we just don't realize that the respect and love we should have for each other does not end when we die. After walking into the church to see some more family members, I walked back out to the cemetery to just talk to my grandpa. As I was walking, I saw a man briefly out of the corner of my eye looking at something on the wall... It was Grandchester...and then I looked at him again, and it was actually my father... NEVER have I thought I'd seen anyone who has passed away, but that day, my daddy's posture and position made him look like my grandfather.

I went back out the grave, and I just stood there. The wind and rain had bullied some of the floral sprays to the ground and I began picking them up and rearranging them so that they'd stay standing. My grandfather's brother, "Uncle Party" came out where I was standing. We just stood there in silence for a while. He slowly walked up to the fresh mound of dirt piled up over his brother's grave, pulled a red rose out of one of the floral sprays, looked at me and said, "Well", and then walked toward his car, and then he began to weep.

Now, finally I got time to sit with my grandfather's remains, and kinda just talk to him as if he were there. I said, "Thank you Grandchester. Thank you for teaching me how to be a man. Thank you for your Vacation Bible School Class in the summer time. Thank you for raising my Daddy. Thank you for the $20 every weekend when I was in High School. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for loving me." Even as I type this, tears well up in my eyes. I stood there and I cried. I was saying goodbye to the only grandfather I'd ever known...and I KNEW him. He wasn't a distant relative living in Tuscaloosa. I lived, breathed, ate with, talked to, laughed with, prayed with, prayed for, smiled at, loved on, hugged, worried about, cried for, cried with, watched, and sang with him...Memories of walking around the church at the beginning of Sunday School will dance in my head forever.

It's okay to cry. It's okay to mourn.

"You shouldn't be ashamed of mourning"-Ross Falcon, The Ars Supernova

I love my grandfather. God, I know you're holding him. I know. Hold me too.


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