Saying Good-bye

When I was growing up, it was uncommon for anyone besides the minister to speak at a funeral.  That practice has changed over the years, and for the most part, I like it.  I have been to a couple of services recently where I didn’t know the deceased at all but went to support a family member I knew.  The shared remembrances of family and friends were so heartfelt and descriptive that I gained a real sense of who the deceased had been and how much he or she meant to loved ones.  The catch-22 of funeral orations is that most of the people who knew the individual well enough to share memories are too emotionally distraught to be able to do it.  I’m sure most people have been to services where a family member has broken down at the podium, and that’s not pretty.

That’s exactly the dilemma I faced when Marlin died.  I felt like I had some things I really wanted to share, but I wasn’t sure I could do it without an embarrassing display of grief.  At the memorial service, I shared a brief, humorous story about Marlin helping John farm one spring.  The ground was so hard that the marker wasn’t working well, and Marlin’s eyesight was poor enough that his first few rows of milo were far from straight.  Since John’s fields are no-till, the squiggly rows remained visible for years and generated good-natured teasing anytime Marlin talked about farming.  I got through that service pretty well, but I forgot several things I wanted to mention since I didn’t really prepare or write down my thoughts.

The night before the funeral in Spring Valley I tossed and turned into the wee hours of the morning and finally got up and began to write down my thoughts.  My voice was pretty shaky as I stood at the podium, but I managed to get through it and share what Marlin had meant to me.

“Marlin was a kind, gentle soul–truly one of the nicest people I ever met.  He came into our family at a difficult time for everyone.  Difficult for us because we were still grieving over the tragic death of my father-in-law, and for me, accepting Marlin in his place made me feel a little disloyal.  I’m sure it was difficult for Marlin because he realized long before some of us did, that he came into our lives just when we needed him most.  But he was content to wait patiently, loving us until we were ready to love him, and of course we did.  How could you not love Marlin?  He never said an unkind word about anyone, and I never heard anyone say an unkind word about him.

He loved Minnesota and often told us stories about his life on the farm and years as a custom cutter and custodian at Spring Valley High School so we are happy he is back home at last.  He talked softly and slowly.  Sometimes so slowly that I wanted to jump in and finish his sentences for him, but if I waited, he would get to the point eventually, and the story was always worth the wait.  Marlin loved good food, and ripe peaches in season were a favorite.  Every year he would find out when the first trucks from Colorado were coming to Salina, and he would load up a case for every family.  I never knew how much those peaches cost because Marlin would never let anyone repay him.  When our own peach trees need trimmed or a tree loaded with fruit needed pruned, we called Marlin.  When he trimmed his own trees, he would cut the twigs into short pieces of kindling and give them to me to start our wood stove in the winter.

Marlin’s later years were filled with joy that came in the form of 5 great-granddaughters.  Nothing put a smile on his face like his little girls.  There were very few plans that couldn’t be rescheduled if he and Grandma Bonnie got the call that they were needed to babysit.

So we have lost our peach supplier, our tree trimmer, our kindling provider, our babysitter extraordinaire, our father, our grandfather, our great-grandfather, our Marlin, and he will be missed forever.”

Sharing those memories was difficult, but it was something I felt I needed to do for me and for Marlin’s friends and relatives.  Even though I was able to have a private conversation with Marlin just a few days before he died to tell him how much he meant to me, I gained some important closure in this final good-bye.

2 Responses to “Saying Good-bye”

  1. Jaime says:

    Beautifully said as usual!

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