There was a soft breeze in the air on Friday morning when we buried my Aunt Effie. The wind robbed the hills of their gems, scattered them to the sky so that we drove through the wild, tumbling kaleidoscope like ticker tape; the funeral procession weaving its way through town like a parade underneath all that colorful confetti. I drove my minivan up, up, up the cemetery hill, keeping close behind my cousin Sue, who was driving my Uncle Edward and Aunt Steech. I could see their hunched figures through the window and wondered for the millionth time how it must feel to bury a sister—one you’ve known from the beginnings of you. I breathed in scent of my cousin Lori (once removed), perfumed by hugs and powdered cheeks.
Along the narrow cemetery road, oval-shaped yellow leaves were tossed and stacked, like golden coins, scattered, welcoming us to heaven’s gate. Were they beech leaves? I peered through the tangled mass of branches on the hillside and couldn’t make out the smooth gray bark, the arching branches. Who knows what kind of trees will be in heaven? I thought of how the ancients buried their beloved ones on hills—Nearer My God to Thee.
The air was heavy with moisture but the rain held off until we were again in our cars, processing back to Farmington for a family dinner. I was listening to Andrew Peterson singing “The Rain Keeps Falling” and it felt like goodbye. My Aunt Effie lived 89 years and she will always be young and strong in my mind. Funny how, when one is with the elderfamily, she becomes a little girl again.
Farmington, West Virginia gained fame in 1968 for the coal mine explosion that killed 78 men, but it’s always been famous to me as the place many of the people I love live. As a little girl I did not know about the explosion—so strong it was felt twelve miles away. I did not know how attempts were made for ten years to recover the bodies, how nineteen were unrecovered, even after all that time. All I knew was my family was there: my paternal grandpa—long widowed, so many cousins, and my Aunt Effie. Every summer we traveled those skinny roads for our family reunion, which met up in Aunt Effie’s back yard. There was no better place. The creek that wound it’s way around the adjacent hill provided endless hours of activity for me and my myriad of cousins—catching crawdads, building dams, wading far upstream and out of grown-up sight. The hills of Farmington hold the sacred in their bellies.
My Aunt Juanita shared some memories about Aunt Effie during the funeral service. She had us smiling and laughing and dabbing the corners of our eyes, but one thing she said rung true to these ears that used to be a little girl’s. She talked about Effie’s gift for hospitality. How her door was always open and her ear prepared to listen. When I think of her, I think of food. She always fed us well. She loved her family.
And she was strong, having lost her husband too early and unexpectedly. With two children still at home, she had to become the breadwinner. She also cared for my grandpa until he died at the age of 100. She was a hard worker and a gentle heart.
This week, I thanked God for the life of my Aunt Effie as I raked the leaves in our back yard. The trees in the meadow behind our house have gone wild and every fall they shed mounds and mounds of colorful chaff. There are still three large piles waiting for me to bag, but I was able to shred some to cover my sleepy garden. They’ll make a nourishing blanket until the spring brings new life, awakens new glory.
Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.
The winner of the Vibella bracelet is Karrilee! Congratulations, Karilee, I’ll be in touch!