This week I had the opportunity to celebrate the passing of my wife’s uncle Ralph. Sometimes we go to a funeral and the loss seems overwhelming. And right now with the kind of news we hear day in and day out it seems like the amount of loss is sometimes overwhelming. In this case the gathering was just the opposite, a true celebration of life.
Joan’s Uncle Ralph was a simple man, a loving man, a man that loved his family, loved farming and the community of farming around him. So when it came to funeral time it seemed appropriate that the funeral (or celebration of his life) would be on the farm. I don’t think the family would have started out choosing that. In fact had it not been for the devastation of Covid 19 this celebration would have been indoors. It would have been more traditional and I’m sure would have been a beautiful time to gather and comfort one another as family. But playing the hand they were dealt, the family announced the gathering would be small, outdoors (for safety and separation) and would be simple.
The chairs set up six feet apart and arranged in groupings of 2,3 4 or 5 seemed strange to start. But as the services began, the pastor spoke of new life that comes for a person of faith and the need to believe. The hearts of the people attending came together, understanding that the day was not an end but a beginning.
The scene was serene. The antique tractors collected from the time of Ralph’s years on the farm lined the bank of the Rabbit river. And the casket that held the remains of the man we loved was tucked between them…. As if he was in a tractor processional. Of course the gathering was small due to our Minnesota rules of separation but as the sermon and remarks were winding down, we witnessed the testimony of friends and family from the community in the form of a different processional.
There were tractors of every shape and size new and old, service trucks, fuel trucks, pickups and cars full of people that would have been at the service had it been normal. It wasn’t a short parade, but the line-up extended down the dirt road in the distance. And as the friends rolled through the yard I felt my spirit lift with the inspiration of the moment.
The man is gone to be with his Savior, but the memories we hold will keep him close to our hearts until we see him again. When once again we’ll hear him laugh. Bye Uncle Ralph.