“Funerals – Back in the Day”
by Leonard Sullivan
My grandchildren often ask me how different things were “back in the day”—. There are so many things that are different now, it would be easier to list those things which are the same today.
Funeral services and the attendance to same is one thing which has changed over the years. Being from a small “tight knit” rural community may have given me a biased and false impression of life. In the 50’s and 60’s my hometown of Dale, Oklahoma, had a population of approximately 250. Dale had three churches – Baptist, Methodist, and Church of Christ – which accommodated probably 90 percent of the population. These small churches were often unable to handle funeral services because of the numbers of people attending. In those instances the funeral services were held, usually in the afternoon, in the Dale School gymnasium. School would close for the afternoon and the school buses would run early to accommodate the funeral service.
My mother’s funeral service was one of those held in the Dale gymnasium. At that time — “back in the day” — bleachers ran the length of the gym on both sides. At her service folding chairs filled the gym floor. At her service there were very few vacant seats in the gym. Besides her family members from all over the country, the whole community including the school teachers and students, attended the service. The funeral procession to the cemetery was a short distance, but all oncoming vehicles pulled over, stopped, and some exited their vehicle with their hat in hand until the entire procession had passed.
I am surprised and somewhat saddened when I attend funeral services now. Very few neighbors and acquaintances of the deceased attend their funeral. Closer to home, we have approximately six hundred members in our Rotary Club. I have attended every funeral service of our deceased fellow Rotarians unless I was out of town. The average number of Rotarians at the services I have attended is less than a dozen.
The “Four-way Test” of the things we think, say or do – there is no better time to tell a person who has lost a family member that you are “thinking of them, praying for them”; and saying to them, “if there is anything I can do, or anything you need, let me know.”
Funeral services are an opportunity to show the family we are there to support them, we are thinking of them, are sharing their grief, and as we would say “back in the day”, paying our respects to the deceased.