excerpt from "Epiphany of an Atheist:
A Memory of Mom
by Keith Taylor
1 Mom went to every funeral she could get to in the Model A. One time she got word of a relative who had died over in Ohio, more than a hundred miles away. She got her old pal, Cindy, to go along and off they went. It was a long ways for the old car, and, as usual, she didn’t get started on time. But a fur’nal was waiting and if she was late, she could visit with folks afterwards.
Late she was. A couple wrong turns and then they had to find the church, but she made it just about the time the show got started. This funeral was larger than she’d expected for Joe, who hadn’t amounted to much in the first place. Somehow Mom and Cindy managed to find seats together in the middle of the church..
“Heck-a-daisies,” she later told us. “I looked around and didn’t recognize a soul. Folks was a’lookin’ right back like they didn’t know us either.
“I said, ‘Cindy, do you know any of these folks?’
“Well, Cindy didn’t, but you know her. She would forget her own brother sometimes. Well anyhow we couldn’t do much except just sit there. Pretty soon the preacher come out and gave the sermon. It was a good one I reckon, but that sure wasn’t Joe he was talkin’ about.
“By this time, Cindy and I had put two and two together and figured out what happened, but we had to stay put. Pretty soon the procession started past the casket. We went along; I knew it couldn’t be Joe, but I had to see for myself anyhow. Sure as heck it wasn’t. It was some big fat guy I never saw before.
“You know Cindy would say something. Loud enough for other folks to hear, she whispered, ‘Looks like Joe put on a little weight, but he looks pretty good all the same.’
“I started laughing and Cindy nearly peed herself. We looked around and some of the folks had figured out what happened and they started laughing right along with us.
“Afterwards we talked to some of the people and they asked us over to the house because they had more food than they could eat. They was the nicest folks you would ever want to meet too. We had a dandy time.”
Oh, I suppose a story reconstructed from memory might not be precise in its detail, but Mom did go to the wrong funeral in Ohio. And she did stay around for the food. She made a lot of new friends and she found she knew some of their relatives in Indiana too. If Icie Taylor didn’t know someone, she knew someone they knew. Unlike Will Rogers, Mom didn’t always like everybody she met, but she’d talk to them anyhow.
Funerals, including hers are some of my fondest memories of Mom. She died in 1978 and hers would have been one she liked -- even the squabble by my two elder sisters, Wanda and Roberta. It started over something years before I was born, and was part of every family get-together . Likely that wouldn’t have spoiled it for Mom though. Nobody was going to control a fifty year-old squabble. She generally got involved herself.
Otherwise, the funeral was about what one would expect in northern Indiana. Just about everybody who knew Icie came and said how nice she looked as she lay in the casket which she would have said cost too much money. Still, she would have though it was pretty, but there were way too many cut flowers. Mom always liked real flowers, not cut flowers from the florist. I thought both were real, but never pushed the point.
I sat in the church during Mom’s funeral, reflecting that all-in-all it had been a good one. Mom would surely have kept track of the folks who cried, and she would have liked the nice casket even if it did cost too much. She’d have delighted in all her old friends and all the laughter. Even the cut flowers would have been important. They were a way of keeping score, and she’d done well.
To my surprise, I’d found that throughout the days at the funeral home I had laughed just like Mom had all those times. It seemed appropriate too. By 1978 I had left religion out of the picture and didn't worry about whether Mom -- or Dad for that matter -- were in heaven.
I mourned her death of course, and have so many warm memories of my mother, but it's hard to be sad when you remember so many wonderful things about a wonderful person.
Despite the prediction of every evangelical preacher Mom's knee didn't bend. She simply met death stoically. Even during her last desperate months in the nursing home when she drifted into and out of rational thought, she refused to attend chapel services or do more than give a grudging hello to a visiting preacher. Still, there was one of them up there preaching. At least he wasn’t shouting; Mom hated that. Icie Taylor’s signature comment on religion was “poo shit.” She didn’t say it in front of some people of course, but she said it a lot otherwise. Somewhat redundant, the precise meaning is vague.
I am a sentimental guy and easily given to tears. They weren’t too far away by the time the preacher said was in the arms of Jesus.
I couldn’t help but think poo shit. After all, I was Icie’s boy. Afterwards, my niece said I had a half smile during the rest of the sermon. Someone later commented that they admired my faith in the lord. That would have made Icie Taylor laugh right out loud, maybe say poo shit.