Thursday, September 09, 2004

Ady's Ashes

Ady. Gladys. Widow of my father-in-law’s older brother.

Ady died back in February of this year. We finally buried her this past weekend – Saturday before Labor Day.

Ady wanted to be buried in the family “plot”, beside her husband, and sister and brother-in-law, and mother-in-law (and a whole lot more) at East Shady Grove in a rural Arkansas community. Who would not want to be buried in a place called “Shady Grove”? Down a winding country road, past the old home place to an old country cemetery, with great oak trees and chiseled standing marble headstones that mark the final resting spot of those we once knew and now remember when we make the occasional trip to that spot.

There seems to be a new tradition in our family. The last three family deaths were quiet passings of an elderly generation. All three requested to be cremated and have their ashes buried at East Shady Grove. Someone jokingly suggested we have a big picnic and family reunion to celebrate. Death is one of those topics that always inspires humor to lighten the mood. When the plan was first presented, we all laughed at the concept. But as we pondered those whimsical words, we became attracted to the idea. We would have a grand family reunion, bury the ashes, and then observe an old southern tradition - dinner on the ground (or as one friend calls it “gravy in the grass”). We would have a picnic and celebrate the blessing of family, and remember and honor the one who passed, and reconnect with those who have moved and traveled far and wide.

What had seemed almost irreverent was ultimately embraced by everyone in the family. After the first passing (about 2 years ago), the cremation was done, and we set a date for the family reunion. In the meantime, another died. There would be two “ash buryin’s”. The day came. Summer – Fourth of July. Arkansas is hot on the Fourth of July. Even under a great oak tree at East Shady Grove Cemetery. Family gathered from far and near. We caravanned to the cemetery, and had time to visit with everyone, to renew acquaintances. Then the patriarch of the family, my father-in-law, stood and cleared his throat. “We have gathered today to pay our respects …”

Respect. It is a word that seems almost foreign to this generation. But something that this family knows about. I know so many people who do not respect the members of their family. They make no attempt to connect with their family. I am thankful this family knows about respect. Respect for the elderly. Respect for the family. Respect for someone else’s personal needs when they conflict with your own. Respect for God. Respect for our government.

Do we always agree? No. Respect is more than agreeing. Respect is acceptance even in the face of differences. It is a mind-set that teaches tolerance and humility, and carries an eternal blessing. It follows the old idiom “we disagree agreeably”. We find a common ground, and focus on the positive – not the negative. And we are not afraid to admit when we are wrong. We are forgiven. And we forgive.

"Pursue peace with all men ... see to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springs up to cause trouble"
Hebrews 12:14

1 comment:

Virginia said...

well said. i love our family. xoxox