The miles tick off. Soon we will be surrounded by all kinds of family members. It is a reunion of sorts, but not your typical pot-luck dinner gathering. When we arrive, we know there will be no table laden with various food items. Cousins will not be waiting to play football, basketball, or tag. There will greetings, hugs, and a few laughs, but also tears. Today we join together to bid farewell to a member of our family.
It is amazing how death has the power to reunite people who have not seen each other in ages. Relatives come to celebrate and share stories about loved ones. Family gathers to comfort and support each other. That is where we are today as we say our earthly good-bye to my great aunt.
We pull into the parking lot and find many members of our family gathered outside and more walking through the door. We say hello and offer hugs and handshakes before being directed to the viewing where we find more relatives than you can shake a stick at.
I enter and find my mom and sister standing near the casket. Joining them, I peer over the side to take a look at Aunt Nell. She is lying so peacefully but something seems amiss. It dawns on me and I remark, “Where is her red lipstick?”
All my life I have been greeted by this aunt with the same phrase each time, “Give me a ‘Kissy-Kissy’,”followed by a bright red smooch mark on my cheek. And here she was with pale pink lips. Others joined us and someone commented, “The pink looks odd, doesn’t it? It’s just not her.”
“Anyone have red so we can fix it?”
“We can’t do that. Mama Dee would have a fit. She’s the one who picked out the dress.”
“That explains the color then, but what was she thinking?” Mama Dee has always been the more conservative sister while Aunt Nell was a bit more flamboyant; a wild child. All families have that one relative who is a “real character.” Aunt Nell was ours.
“Don’t be too hard on Mama Dee. This is her last sister. She’s the only one left and I’m sure she wanted to make sure she was lovely.”
“Have you taken a closer look at her attire?”
“No, why,” several us wonder.
“Just take a look.”
A second look from us and a gasp ripples through the group followed by a few snickers and giggles. “Is that what we think it is?”
My sister provides the background story to our amazement. Another relative had shared it with her not long before we gathered together. It seems that Aunt Nell wanted to be dressed to the nines when she met her Lord and Savior. Her idea of proper attire included a trip to Victoria’s Secret for a lacy black undergarment. That same piece of clothing now adorns her body and glares through the thin, gauzy pastel fabric of the dress that none of us thought matched her personality in the first place.
“Has anyone snuck a bottle of her favorite beverage in with her?” That brings a round of smiles as we all remember her afternoon ritual of a small glass of gin to unwind.
“No, but I thought about asking for one on the plane ride here,” adds one of my many distant cousins.
The time passes with more hugs, tears, and laughs as we continue to share our favorite stories. Someone remembers her teaching them to drive while another recalls Aunt Nell’s driving skills.
The service itself ends and we climb into our cars to follow the hearse to Aunt Nell’s final resting place. However, someone forgot to schedule a police escort so the hearse makes it through the light, but leaves the rest of us to wonder where we are going. No map has been provided and few know the area so within a short time we are lost. Some cars stick together hoping someone in front of them, with the little flag from the funeral home, knows where they are going. What a gathering!
Knowing Aunt Nell and her sense of humor, I can just imagine her smiling and chuckling the entire time at the unique way our farewell to her has progressed. There is no doubt it is the most fitting tribute as we unite to honor a wonderful relative and all get lost in the process. Definitely a story to tell at future reunions.
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