I had planned an early morning bike ride as the start to my Fourth of July. Not because of its patriotic implications but rather because if one is inclined to ride a bike in southern Kansas on the Fourth of July, early morning is probably going to be the best time to do it. As it turned out, the temperature was in the low seventies and there was almost no wind. Very nice. I did my fifteen miles and made it back before eight o’clock.
As follow up to my ride, I planned to work on the deck, which sits on the east side of our house. If one is going to work on a deck in southern Kansas on the Fourth of July, the early morning hours are a good choice. Lets you take advantage of the neighbors’ tall trees. It being early morning and a holiday, I thought it might be best to hold off on using any of the more aggressive power tools. So I spent some time caulking, then laying boards in place. After that, I did some measuring and layout for the support posts for a planned extension of the deck. While I was doing that, I heard one of the neighbors start up his lawnmower.
As a matter of fact, I heard him start his lawn mower about a dozen times in the next several minutes. After he was finally able to keep it running, I figured my power saw would not make any excessive contribution to the ten o’clock assault on serenity.
After a couple hours of more work on the deck, I thought it was time for a lunch break. During the lunch break, I decided it was time to check for possible communications on my cell phone. I found a message from one of my church members asking if I could possibly help with her grandmother’s funeral. That evening at six o’clock. Of course I could!
And so, after a run to Lowe’s in Ponca City to get more material and after digging six more post holes and after a very needed shower, I headed out to Geuda Springs for a graveside service.
The temperature held steady in the low nineties, and a light breeze eased in from the south. A thin line of hardwood trees stretched along the west edge of the country cemetery. With the shade not quite reaching the gravesite, I joined sixty or seventy relatives and friends to help commemorate the seventy-seven years that Grandma Billie had spent on this earth.
I spoke very briefly about the comfort of faith and then talked about how she enjoyed country music, line dancing, going to concerts, and traveling around the country. In honor of her love of country music and the long life she had lived, I played my guitar and sang “Song of the Violin.” Billie had also loved shopping for clothes and shoes, and going to anything that involved the kids and grandkids: baseball games, softball games, basketball games, school events and such. She especially loved wearing dangling earrings and her family especially loved her cooking. One grandson spoke fondly of chicken dinners and ice cream treats in the freezer.
Surrounded by miles of corn and soybeans and recently cut fields of wheat, we shared grief and celebration. Some shared the comfort of faith; all shared the connection of a single life that had now passed. Cousins visited with one another in the shade, a few folks reminisced about former days and great-grandkids chased each other through the cemetery.
In a little while, folks began leaving, rolling slowly out the lane of the cemetery and turning west onto the gravel road that led over toward the paved road back to town. As the summer sun sagged a bit lower in the sky, a small cloud rose behind each car, a funnel of dust marking each passing and then settling back onto the grass and rocks. Until stirred by the next passing.