Friday, September 30, 2016

Funeral Visitations

My folks went to a lot of funerals and visitations for funerals when I was growing up. Many times I was privileged to participate in these functions. The first time I remember being at a funeral home was when my maternal grandfather Morgan Williams died. My dad picked me up in his arms and took me to the casket. As we stood there he gently explained to me that though it looked like he was sleeping that he had died. He told me that we would not get to see him any more after that day. But that my grandfather had gone to heaven and he was ok. I was five years old at the time and I guess that is about as much information a five year old boy can process. I remember many times when I was growing up that my dad would be called upon to serve as a pallbearer at a funeral for some family member or a neighbor or someone at church or even for someone that he barely knew. When this happened my dad would rearrange his work day and take care of this task. Without knowing it I think my dad was teaching me the lesson that when death occurs you have to deal with the inconvenience and stop long enough to respect the dead and express love to the families of the dead. When my dad died I rode to the cemetery in the hearse with the funeral director and he recounted to me the many times my dad had helped with a funeral by being a pallbearer. And that was just one funeral home! As my parents aged their funeral going activity increased. I would call them and ask them what they had been doing and they would tell me what town they had gone to for a funeral and whose funeral it was. I told them I thought they had found a new social outlet! My dad said "well son, that's what you do when you get older and your friends begin to die".

I have been to a lot of funerals and funeral visitations myself. I have delivered the eulogy at more than 300 funerals. I have stood in long lines and waited my turn to shake hands with or put my arm around a loved one and express my appreciation for the deceased and offer my condolences. I hoped that my brief moment by their side was helpful. But often I have wondered if it made a difference or not. When my dad and mother died I stood at sentry by their caskets and greeted each person who came through. I don't think I missed a one. And I discovered that each person who took the time and made the effort to come to the funeral home brought joy and comfort to my soul. Their presence and their words were a precious gift that I treasured.

I think I am coming to the point in life when like my dad and mother I may be going to more funerals. Not because I have a professional responsibility but because I have friends who are dying and loved ones of friends who are dying. Does it make any difference to touch base with friends and family at times like this? Maybe I am old fashion but I think it does. Visiting the grieving and helping people bury their dead may or may not be a spiritual activity. But it is one of the most human and neighborly things we can do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Mother's Eulogy


Lois Cloyd

1934-2016

 

Intro. When I was a boy my Mama would make fudge. I would watch and as she poured the hot fudge from the kettle into the dish.  I would say “I get to lick the spoon”. Trouble was there was usually a brother or sister around who also wanted to lick the spoon. But that was not a real problem. Mother would just get a second spoon and give each of us a spoon of the remains from the kettle. In licking that spoon we got a foretaste of the fudge that we would get to eat after it set up. 

I have spent my life walking in the midst of the reality of things on earth and the foretaste of the glory divine that is to come. I grew up in church. Mother took me to church as a two week old babe in arms. I grew up singing gospel songs. I went to Sunday School. I heard about salvation. I heard about heaven and I knew you had to be saved to get heaven. I heard the Bible truths about what was right and what was wrong and how that we were supposed to live in the way that was right. I grew up hearing about missions and prayer and stewardship. I was told that I needed to listen to God and be obedient to whatever call God placed upon my life. I knew all of that because that is what my Mama and Daddy taught me.
 

I knew that whatever a person had here on earth was temporary. And whatever was laid up for us in heaven was permanent. My Mama believed that and indeed that is what the Bible teaches.

 

“For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands, an eternal dwelling in the heavens” II Cor. 5:1

 

So while I have lived my life trying to accomplish and experience a lot of things here on earth and trying to get my share of earthly possessions, I have done so with the acknowledgement that none of those things would last forever. That might be a discouraging thought were it not for the foretaste I have been given of things above.


That is the way my Mama lived. That is the way my Mama taught me to live.

My Mother was an ambitious soul. She worked hard to fulfill the ambitions of her soul.
  

Mother did not grow up with much. She did not have wealth or stature or a wide experience of places and things. But she wanted those things and she worked hard to acquire them.

She desired an education. With a stroke of providence she got the opportunity. After high school she was working as a waitress at the little restaurant in the corner of a drug store in London. As the fall was approaching a school principle came into the store and told my mother that another student was getting married and was going to forfeit her scholarship to Sue Bennett College and asked mother if she wanted it. Two years later she graduated and took a teaching job in a one room country school with 52 kids in 8 grades.

The job did not pay much but it was more than she had ever made and with a little money in the bank she started buying things. She was still living with my grandparents so she bought them a new sofa. They had never had a phone. She had one put in. When Christmas came she proudly bought a present for every member of the family right down to the youngest niece and nephew.
 
She liked teaching but she wanted a family. Then she met my dad. Mother said the first time she ever met Dad he was driving by on a Farmall H tractor. She said he waved at her. One day he drove by on the tractor, saw her, stopped, turned the tractor off, and right there, sitting on the tractor seat asked her for a date. That is the way my Mama tells the story. If truth be known she flagged him down.
Dad always said mother amended the details of that story. But however much the details of that story may have been amended the fact is that 5 months later they were married. By the time they had been married 5 years and 2 months four children had been born. And mother had what she wanted. Throughout all of her life what she was more proud of than anything else on earth were her four children.

As bad as the Alzheimer’s eventually decimated her mind and body there was something in her soul that fought hard to hold on to a remnant of that pride. About three weeks after dad died I drove to Blacksburg to see her. I found her that day in a state of chatter. I spoke to her and though I knew I would not be successful I tried to interact with her. But she stared blankly ahead oblivious to my presence and chattered away.


So I sat down beside her and for about an hour I just listened. Most of what she said made no sense but every now and then she would string 6 or 8 words together in a sentence. As I listened it occurred to me that there was something like a reel to reel tape playing her mind of events that occurred 50 plus years ago. In her demented state she was interacting with those events. I listened closely and discovered that I was on the reel to reel tape that she was interacting with. She would say “You know I have these two kids”. I would have been one of those two kids and that would have dated the event around 54 or 55 years ago. Once a brief smile came across her face as she said to one of those kids “Look at you, you are so cute” (I am quite certain she was probably referring to me). I realized something about my mother that day that I guess I already knew – The melody of her life was her children. That day she gave me a gift of listening as she recited the melody. Alzheimer’s had robbed her mind of the verses her life had written, but she was maintaining a feeble grasp on the melody.

Yes, mother was an ambitious soul. She wanted to have something. She wanted to be somebody. She wanted to contribute something to the world. She wanted to be known for the contribution she made. Mother never wanted to be just ordinary. She did not want her children to settle for the ordinary. She determined to inspire us to live beyond the ordinary.
 

 Mother wanted to be a teacher. But four children in four years had interrupted that dream. But at the age of 32 she enrolled in classes at the University of KY to complete her teaching degree. This meant she had to drive from Georgetown to Lexington each day to attend class. So Dad bought mother an old brown two-tone Plymouth. It was a big tank of a car. It had a rectangular steering wheel and push button gear shift. Every Sunday he would put a few bucks worth of gas in it and mother would drive it to class. Every day she would pack her lunch and put a dime in her pocket and when classes were over for the day she would take that dime and buy herself a coke as a reward for the days’ work. Two years later she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of KY.


Mother recognized a teachable moment and was not about to waste it. She never wanted us to miss school for anything. But that day she was not going to allow school to get in the way of our education. She took us out of school dressed us up in our best Sunday - go to meeting clothes. I had on a white sport coat and a black tie. All that was missing was a pink carnation. Dad took all four us, 5th grade, 4th grade, 3rd grade, and 1st grade to mother’s graduation in memorial coliseum. We sat high up in the balcony through a long graduation and watched my mother receive her degree. I never saw my dad more proud or more patient than he was that day. My mother and Dad had both paid a heavy price for that accomplishment. Afterwards we stood in the parking lot and mother still wearing her cap and gown gathered her four children around her and Dad took the Brownie Hawkeye camera and took a picture.

My Mama knew exactly what she was doing that day. She was using that moment to inspire her children to be more than ordinary. She was inspiring us to be somebody and to make a contribution to the world.


Mother always told us to get an education. She said that was something that no one could take away from us. She was wrong about that. Alzheimer’s can take away your education. Education is just as temporary as anything else on this earth. The best we can do is leave a legacy and build a foundation that others can build upon. I think my mother determined was through the children that she bore and reared and the students who were entrusted to her.


Mother lived in a lot of houses. Her home was important to her. Some of the houses she lived in were pretty simple but she was proud of them. The first house I remember living in was the Helvetia School house on Chaney Ridge Road in Laurel County KY. Dad and mother bought the old School house and converted it into a home. They got the first floor finished and ran out of money. Later dad finished two rooms upstairs. But they never did get enough money to remodel the outside. Mother was proud of that house but always felt like she had to apologize about the outside of it. She would say: “The outside does not look to good but “It is fixed up nice inside”.




We moved to Georgetown and left that house and some of our belongings in it and about a year later it burned down to the ground. And mother locked herself in the bedroom and cried. One of her dreams was destroyed that day. But there would be other houses. Some were fixer uppers and some were modern and the last one was new. When she moved from that place she left against her will. She did not want to go and she made sure we knew of her displeasure. I don’t blame her for being upset. I didn’t like it either. But the Alzheimer’s was already doing its dirty work in her mind and she needed help. She went to another house but she was never was at home again.
 

 The Apostle gives us a picture that you and I are far too familiar with. He says “Indeed we groan in this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven, since we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. (II Cor. 5:2-4 – HCSB)


 I have watched my mother do a lot of groaning as everything she worked to acquire here on this earth was slowly taken away. Her houses gone. Her education vanished. Her dignity and glory vaporized. Her body reduced to a shell.
 

 If that is all there is then life is a cruel joke.
 

 But my Mama lived in this world but in faith she longed for the world beyond. She dwelt here. But she lived for God. Her hope was in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the Spirit of God had given her a foretaste of glory divine in the world to come.


Everything on this earth is temporary and everything in heaven is permanent. Paul said “For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands, an eternal dwelling in the heavens” II Cor. 5:1


I am a little sad today. But forgive me if my tears are few. Because seeing what I have seen and knowing what I know I don’t want to cry but I want to shout “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, what a savior”.


 If mother were here she would try to help us put this day in perspective. And I know just how she would do it. She would write us a poem. But since she cannot write a poem I decided to write one for her. I tried to wrap my mind around her life. I tried to understand who she was and who she became and who she is now. I loaned her my mind and my pen. Here is the perspective that I think she might convey to us today.

 

 

            I Can Remember

         By C. Brent Cloyd

 

Once I could recall every birthday

To places I had been I knew the way

From memory I could sing gospel songs

I knew each verse, not a word would be wrong

 

I taught children to say the alphabet

A basic in life they must not forget

I helped them learn to add and to subtract

To multiply, divide, and be exact

 

I could organize a holiday meal

Entertain family and friends with zeal

Clean house, set the table, and decorate

Cook all the fixins and never be late

 

But then I would forget and be confused

From activities I myself excused

Alzheimer’s stole my dignity and glory

My life began a different story

 

My soul filled with pain, denial, and tears

As the disease tarnished my golden years

My heart beat but I could not remember

Nothing was left but a dying ember

 

You visited me but I never knew

My moments of understanding were few

The world became small, I rarely cracked a smile

Lonely, I lingered, through this earthly trial

 

Then God’s angel came in death and in love

We made the trip to the promised place above

I met Jesus, I worshipped and adored

He gave me a house I could not afford

 

I’ve met the neighbors, I know them by name

Seen old friends, now some new ones I can claim

I’ve not been here long but it feels like home

I know where I am, not afraid to roam

 

So don’t cry for me, but laugh and rejoice

I am singing hymns with new mind and voice

Of the heavenly choir I’m a member

And every song I can remember

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, February 5, 2016

It Won't Be Very Long

My Grandfather Morgan Williams was a hymn writer. He had some 46 songs published. The most popular one was entitled “It Won’t be Very Long”. It gained some notoriety in Stamps Baxter singing circles. It can be found in a few of the old hymnals one of them being “Heavenly Highway Hymns”.
But I know it because my mother sang it from memory all the time when I was growing up. She was quite proud of the hymn and of her Dad who wrote it.

 I am remembering it tonight as my mother’...s life appears to be slipping away in a nursing home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Alzheimer’s has depleted her to an earthly shell. But awaiting her is a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.


I am singing my Grandfather’s old hymn tonight. And I think I am hoping that maybe there is a recording somewhere in a hidden corner of my mother’s mind that is playing this hymn and giving her comfort.


It won't be very long till this short life shall end,
It won't be very long till Jesus shall descend;
And then the dead in Christ from beds of clay shall rise
To meet the Lord and King up yonder in the skies.


It won't be very long till here we cease to roam,
It won't be very long till all the saints get home;
And then with smiling face we'll walk the streets of gold,
And sing the Savior's praise where saints are never old.


It won't be very long till bur-dens we lay down,
It won't be very long till we'll receive a crown;
And then we'll shout and sing with angels round the throne,
And when we meet up there, we'll know as we are known.

It won't be very long till earth shall pass away,
It won't be very long till works of men decay;
But Jesus has pre-pared a happy dwelling place,
For all who look above and trust His matchless grace.


It won't be very long,
It won't be very long
Till Jesus shall appear;
That day is drawing near;
Will you be ready then
To meet the ransomed throng?
Get ready for that day,
It won't be very long.

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