I stood Tuesday in a rural cemetary called Mount Holly. The place was quite old, and had a number of those well-weathered stones which tell narratives and aphorisms about the person(s) departed.
One headstone said "He did for others, while others did unto him". The field was full of the English and Scots Irish surnames among whom I grew up.
One somewhat more recent elaborate and tall stone recounted a host of degrees and accomplishments. Among the various letters, it omitted the one for which the departed was most reemembered--the organization which involved three occurrences of the letter "K".
During a service, a soloist sang "Blessed Assurance". I knew this song lyric was by Fanny J. Crosby, the 19th Century hymn lyricist who wrote some 8,000 hymns, a solid handful of which are rememebered. She lost her sight as an infant, and even went so far as to say it aided her, as the experience fit her for focusing on hymns rather than the colorful things of the world.
Her friend from church played for her the tune, and asked her what she heard in it. "I hear 'blessed assurance, Jesus is mine', she said, and promptly wrote the lyric whose rhymes features "glory divine", "wing from above" and "lost in His love".
My sister presented me with an old shirt and scarf-fastener from Boy Scout days. I was perhaps the least advanced Boy Scout ever to spend years attending. My brother, who kindly drove my wife and I in his Cadillac, joked that I could write in my weblog about all the memories it brought back for me. He believes I live in a land of nostalgia, and perhaps he is right.
I did have a sense of familiarity in the surroundings Tuesday. I had visited the small Methodist church at which the services were held when I was in high school. I liked the little fellowship hall, with a display of simple and ornate small crosses on its wall.
It all felt familiar to me, and the eulogy my second cousin wrote for his father was touching and simple. He chose for an anecdote the time when squirrels invaded a particularly successful garden full of sweet corn, carting off entire ears. My great uncle took his shotgun out to the garden, and peppered around with lead. At the conclusion of all this homeland security, he found no departed squirrels, but instead that he had successfully put a flat in his wheelbarrow tire.
There was no graveside service as such, in constrast to some of the large-tent affairs I've seen at other services. At first, there was the sound of the workmen, moving and lowering, discussing and sometimes chuckling. Then we circled for a group prayer, which was actually better, to me, than another sermon.
I liked the curious little Baptist church in east Camden at which an after-reception was held for the family. It, too, had a cozy long fellowship hall--the kind of place at which I perpetually attended pot luck places at the church of my childhood--simple affairs in which older and often widowed members went all out by bringing their own special southern fried chicken dishes in massive quantities. The Baptist church had rather an unconventional men's room--a taxidermy motif featuring a wild boar's head and two deer's head. Above the urinals, one news article trumpeted a religious gymnast while another advised of the virtues of teens fleeing Myspace.
We listened to a modern radio play of "The Twilight Zone" on a satellite radio station during our drive home. Satan was disguised as a newspaper linotype man, with an eerie penchant for prescient reporting.
Yesterday I tried on the new UV-blocking glasses I got on a whim on eBay. When you block what is blue in the world, it turns out that the world is a dim reddish place.