It seems it is true everywhere, people get together for weddings and funerals. I guess when there are such large and extended families that is the only way to do it unless there is a family reunion. Living our rural life we have seen over the last 9 months how the community pulls together when someone dies. The ladies at the community hall set up the tables, get food donations and prepare the reception so that on the day of the funeral the family has nothing else to worry about. Everyone pulls together - it reminds me of how I grew up; the church ladies would put on a spread and the chapel was prepared for the service. It is the same thing here but it is the community and the church is an old Baptist church across the street.
Of course we don't know many people out here so we have not attended any services, until last week. Our neighbour and new friends had the grandfather and father of their family pass away on Monday; Tuesday the hall was set up and the funeral was held on Wednesday. This all seems so fast to me since I am used the delays that occur in the city. It can be a week or more before there is a service and internment. Not here, it all happens fast. I am guessing this goes back to the old days when you couldn't keep a body long and needed to get it into the ground.
Our road, Forest City runs up to Route 122 which if you turn right, leads you to the Lower Fosterville cemetery and if you turn left you see the old church, the community hall and the Upper Fosterville cemetery. Yes, there are two cemeteries and I am not sure how you decide which one to go into but I guess there are likely family plots. We didn't attend the internment but we did go to the service and to the reception for a few minutes to pay our respects.
I have to admit I do not enter churches often, but I did last week. I love old churches. I have always wanted to photograph them and make a coffee table book of country churches across Canada. The history seems so alive in them. These are not the giant churches where you feel small when you enter or are overwhelmed by the money that has been sunk into them; no these are down home, country praying, community gathering, school house churches. You know when you enter the country church that families have spent their whole lives there, marrying, baptizing and burying their loved ones. I can almost see pioneers like the Ingalls family gathering together, discussing the week and finding out how their neighbours are. This is true Canadiana.
One of our local volunteer fire captains had explained there would be a fireman's honour guard for the man who passed since he had spent part of his life as a volunteer. The current firemen from our hall and some from the Canterbury fire hall members arrive dressed in their finest and they offered one last thank you for the man's service in this life to his community. I had no idea that this was done. I do know that volunteer firemen are undervalued - maybe because people know them in their everyday lives, but when those fire calls come - and they do, they put down everything they are doing and race to help their neighbours. These men and some women, do deserve a big thank you - everyday - SO THANK YOU to my local Volunteer Fire Department - I want you there should I ever need you!
Unfortunately we arrived too late to view the honour guard but we arrived in time to see a little church that was jam packed with people. We waited in the foyer for a seat and let others sit before us since we were very peripheral guests. The family (about 30 or more of them) waited downstairs and after they came in and took their seats we were able to get a seat in a pew by the window. I was glad to have the window seat as we were in tight next to others. Len made do, but I am sure he was fine with it since he had the lovely me on one side and a pretty younger woman on the other. The poor man, what he suffers for me!
As I sat in the pew, looking out the window toward my home and glancing around at the old church, I felt a sense of peace, community and calmness. I don't think most of us take time to appreciate the simple things in life, take in the moment we are in and enjoy the feelings that overcome us. I sat their and felt compassion and empathy for the grieving family, pleasure at the fact that so many people came out to honour the man who had passed and happiness that people still took the time to offer their support to others in their time of need.
The church was simple but beautiful. The old wooden pews, dark wainscoting on the walls, a few pictures of biblical moments on the walls, nothing whatsoever ostentatious, just a pretty country church. I fell in love with the large stained glass window that adorned the church and was placed directly behind the pulpit and although it was a bit of a gray day, the moments the sun shone through were magnificent.
The service began and I enjoyed watching the elderly pastor as he welcomed us, paid his respects to the family and the grandfather who had passed away; thoroughly enjoyed the old country church song sung by an elderly couple as the husband played guitar - kind of an old time country from the 40's and 50's sound; and the wonderful eulogy offered by the man's daughter in law. Then the sermon began.
Please don't take this with any disrespect, the pastor is a sweet old man and I did enjoy listening to him for awhile. (I say old which I am guessing is true since it is 2011 and he also served here as pastor from 1948-52... You guess, I am thinking 90 years old or so?) I think he was fine, although perhaps a little repetitive and his voice wandered a tad... About the third time he mentioned Jesus feeding the masses with bread and fish, I did let my mind wander and start to think about how he cooked the fish. Did he bread it and spice it? Was it just ok to eat raw since Jesus prepared it? Was I thinking too much about the details? I also had to nudge Len every so often to wake him since if he started to snore or fart, I felt that might be considered rude. About a half hour or so later, the sermon was done and the service was nearing an end. There was a final song - an interesting old time version of Amazing Grace to guitar that I hadn't ever heard, but it seemed apropro. It was a funeral, all was well, I just think the pastor might be near the end of his sermoning days... No disrespect intended!
Len and I chose not to go to the internment, that is something to me that seems really for those directly involved and I didn't want to feel we were invading their space. I know in my life, even when I can hold my grief together at a service, when I go to the cemetery, my emotions are hard to contain. I do think that is a time for family and dearest friends only. We wandered over to the community hall and tried to help a little with the last minute preparations, coffee out, uncover food, etc. I took a few minutes to introduce myself again to some people I had seen but not met and Len and I grabbed a hot cup of joe to take off the chill.
Overall, I can see myself ending in this way. Where my family doesn't have to worry about little details, the community supports each other and everyone does what they can to help out. This little piece of Canadiana touched me deeply and I am so grateful that I could be a part of it. Thank you for asking me to make fresh buns, I was glad to do something. I do express my condolences to the family and loved ones and my admiration to the community for helping each other out when in need. Thank you Fosterville for sharing yet another memorable moment with me!
I know my nonreligious friends may not enjoy this blog and my believing friends and family may find me sacrilegious. Please remember these are my thoughts, feelings and experiences and we may not always agree but I hope that the emotion and human content comes through and overrides your potential assumptions about my belief system. I love you all!
ONE LAST THING! Today is Sunday, April 17, 2011 and it is my Daddy's birthday!
Happy Birthday Dad! Love you lots, Toot!