My dad's brother Lamar died this weekend. His funeral was today, and it was as perfect as a funeral can be. There were only three speakers--my cousin Billy, my dad, and the bishop. In between there was the most beautiful a cappella rendition of "Amazing Grace" (sung by my uncle's granddaughters) that I have ever heard.
There were stories, of course, funny and sweet. All of them brought Lamar roaring back to life--seriously, he was just the best kind of badass uncle (everyone needs one, right?). Billy talked about how Lamar bought his kids a pony so wild that it took "six men and one boy" most of the day to catch him. Finally, Lamar traded the pony in and bought a sewing machine instead. Then my dad told about how Lamar convinced him and the other little brothers that a bear lived in the root cellar near the room where the boys slept. To this day my dad is afraid of the dark. Also bears. Also root cellars.
But here was the most amazing part of the service. At the end of his extremely affectionate talk, Biilly said that ten years ago they could not have had this kind of funeral--a funeral saturated with love. Lamar was an alcoholic and that reality was responsible for much hurt, much sadness. And then ten years ago Lamar quit drinking. Boom. Just like that. And everything changed. Billy thanked the Lord for the tender mercies of these past few years.
Lamar was buried in East Lawn Memorial Hills--the cemetery where we used to ride bikes when I was kid. All the people I love best in the world are buried there--my grandparents, my father-in-law, my friend Becky. After years of not talking about his years in the military, Lamar apparently asked in the end for a military burial, and he got it. A lone soldier stood in the distance and played taps, after which the flag which covered my uncle's coffin was folded in precise military fashion, then presented to Lamar's oldest son, Richard.
I am still overwhelmed by the memory of that moment.