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Small Town Send-Off

Yesterday, we got up early and headed to Alabama to attend Mama Dot’s funeral.

It was a crisp morning…not a cloud in the sky…perfect driving weather.

As we turned onto a back road, this lovely scenery greeted us, thus beginning the feelings of nostalgia that drives such as this one invoke…

Mama Dot lived in Small Town, Alabama.

It’s the town where I attended school, one town over from Other Small Town, Alabama.

When I say town, I mean that there are no traffic lights, except for the caution light that flashes beside the fire station.

It’s the kind of town you see depicted on television, only there are no props or other set decorations.

We arrived at Mama Dot’s house and greeted the Mr.’s parents.

Being in Mama Dot’s house…without her…was very, very strange.

It was almost as though she had never left.

Her makeup was still sitting on the bathroom counter, a robe hung from the back of the door, and other personal effects neatly in place in various spots.

I didn’t go into the kitchen or any other room in the house.

I just couldn’t.

As we waited to head to the church for lunch, a few people stopped by.

I’ll talk about one of the visitors in a post I’m going to write in a day or two.  She is a very special person to me.

Super Sis and her family arrived, changed clothes, and we headed to the small Baptist church, where a group of ladies and gentlemen hosted lunch for around fifty family and close acquaintances.

Folks, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those kinds of fixings before, but let me tell you…small-town Southern people come together like nobody’s business when a loved one passes away.

There was a smorgasbord of food…stuff even I could eat.

I filled up on every kind of field peas, green peas, and collard greens that I could get on my plate, topped off by freshly sliced tomatoes.

There was fried chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, and all kinds of other dishes…enough for three or four long tables set end-to-end.

There was a separate dessert table.  I couldn’t tell you what was on it because I skipped it.

As we walked through the line, I greeted the hostesses…many of whom were my childhood friends’ mamas.

Oh, the hugs, let me tell you, and the whispered conversations.

You have to have grown up in a small town to understand what I mean.

Everyone loved Mama Dot, and I think everyone in town contributed to that meal in some way or another.

Visitation was right after.

I can’t do open caskets.  I prefer to remember people in their living states, so I stayed outside, which turned out to be such a blessing because I got to talk to a lot of people I had not seen in years.

Sharon was one of my classmates.  We graduated together, and her whole family was at the church.  I’d never met her sons before.  They are already in high school.  I keep up with their sports feats through Facebook.  She’s an elementary teacher, and we always shared a passion for reading, so we had fun discussing which authors our kids are reading, classroom management tips, and laughs about runs to the restroom between classes.

I spent time talking to the Mr.’s cousins…all boys I’d gone to school with.  I’m especially close with the oldest two and have enjoyed watching their families grow over the years.  Still, we rarely get together, so being able to hug one another and catch up, face-to-face, was truly a blessing.  I love those guys like they were my own brothers.

Palm Buddies forever, guys.  😉

I spoke with one of Mama Dot’s caregivers…a lady who, coincidentally enough, is the grandmother of a student I taught two years ago.  I think I blogged about that when we discovered the connection.  It was so good to see her again and share a laugh or two about her granddaughter, who is, by the way, maturing in to a fine young lady.  She will graduate in 2015, and I cannot wait to watch her cross the stage.

Mama Dot could never have made it without her gentle, round-the-clock, assistants.

The funeral that immediately followed the visitation was a celebration of Mama Dot’s life, and everyone laughed as the preacher shared some of his favorite memories…stories that made us nod our heads and say, “Yep.  That was Mama Dot for you.”

One thing that struck out and that was true Mama Dot style was that the Word of God was preached.  She loved God so much and wanted others to accept Him as their Savior so they could have eternal life.  If someone didn’t hear that message, I think they need their ears checked!!!  Maybe they need to do a gut check, actually.  🙂

We followed the hearse to the cemetery, which was behind the Methodist church but is the one that everyone uses…another typical thing you’ll find in a small town.

As we drove around the back, I saw the names of families that I was very familiar with.  Small towns don’t have a lot of different last names.  It seems as though everyone is related to everyone else or will be before they die.

The graveside service was short.

She will be buried next to her husband, who passed away seven years ago.

As I began making my way to the car, I stopped to chat with other folks I had missed at the church.

Oh word, but let me tell you…when it’s been years and years since you’ve seen someone…well, you just want to hold onto them forever…freeze the moment.

Where’s a Starbucks when you need one (not in Small Town, Alabama, that’s for sure).

I could have stayed for hours catching up with people.  There’s still so much on my heart that I’d like to tell them and so much I’d like to hear about their lives.

But alas, it was time to go back to the church to eat dinner from the fixings from lunch.

Before I got in the car, though, I took a quick walk to another family plot…one that is home to a young lady I attended school with.  She died tragically when we were in the seventh grade, and every time I visit Small Town, Alabama, I visit her grave.

As I placed my hand on her name, birth and death dates, memories took over, and I was swept away to the seventh grade.

Yeah right, you may be thinking.

No, seriously.

I can remember stuff that people wouldn’t believe.

I’d noticed that the family plot had been added to in recent years, and her headstone changed as well…to make room for more family members.

When you live in a small town, you want your family near you, in life and in death.

Dinner back at the church was filled with more sharing as I saw yet another old friend…one that the Mr. had grown up knowing and had roomed with in college.  He hasn’t changed one single bit…still as handsome as ever and carrying a look in his eyes that spoke of mischief.

It was hard to leave this group behind, and as we drove away, finally headed home, I sighed deep in my soul.

I don’t know when I’ll get back to Small Town, Alabama.

Mama Dot was the matriarch.  We gathered together to honor her wishes to keep the family close, and with everyone so spread out, it will be hard to find time to meet up.

Driving to and from Alabama made me sad because I felt as though the door was closing on my childhood…once and for all.

When we had been making the rounds, visiting with different people, a comment struck me.  Someone said, “The town is dying out.”

Yes, it really is.  With the older generation passing away, and the younger generation moving away, the town is growing smaller and smaller.

I’ll treasure the memories from this one day, though, as a small town came together to pay honor to a fine, Christian, woman who is now resting with Jesus.

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One Response

  1. This post brings back a lot of memories of my childhood town – very similar to Small Town, Alabama.

    So glad that Mama Dot’s family and friends gathered to celebrate her life and to share memories.

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