I almost died today driving to a funeral, and I appreciate the irony and positive outcome of the circumstance.
The memorial service was 100 miles away in my home town and honored a woman I’d known my entire life. The drive would take two hours, so I turned on the cruise control and turned up the radio. As I traveled in the passing lane, an 18-wheel truck and trailer rumbled on the right, a steep embankment loomed on my left, and a hot-footed driver in a sports car menaced on my tail.
Suddenly a 5-gallon plastic bucket flew out of a truck in front of me. I was driving 80 miles an hour and had a split second to react.
I touched the break pedal so the back lights would warn Speedy Gonzales behind me and then I plowed into the bucket, shattering it into pieces. (A subsequent article will describe how to face your obstacles with full force.) My weary guardian angels knew it was better for me to smash than kick the bucket. No warming lights came on my dashboard and my windshield survived intact, so I kept driving.
If I had swerved right to avoid the bouncing bucket, I would be a special delivery grease spot on the side of a Federal Express truck. If I had dodged left, I’d still be rolling down the embankment. If I had braked hard, the NASCAR Wannabe behind me would have crashed through my car and impaled himself in the back of my head. I may be older, but the reflexes still work.
I slowed to a boring 70 miles per hour for the remainder of the trip and entered the church, saying a prayer of gratitude that I hadn’t sacrificed my life for a plastic bucket. The service was gentle, appropriate for the gracious, tender woman who had been my Sunday School teacher and 4-H leader. I couldn’t sing the songs anymore and missed the old, familiar hymnals. Who can sing looking at a Power Point presentation on the wall? Singers can’t read notes or know where to harmonize. I mumbled instead.
After the funeral came the best part of the day: The Funeral Dinner. Nobody prepares dinners like the volunteer ladies of the Wendell Living Waters Presbyterian Church. People hunkered over the tables in search of comfort food, heaping their plates with pistachio salad, green bean casserole, baked ham, pasta salad, potato salad, homemade rolls, fresh apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. I knew better than to ask for wine because I respected the abstinence philosophy of the church. If I wanted wine, I’d attend a Catholic funeral.
I chatted with the family members and reminisced about the good old days. When it was time to go, I shamelessly left a few business cards and drove two miles east of town to pass the house where I lived as a teenager. Dodging roadkill and tumbleweeds, I slowed when the house came into view. It remained glorious – a rock ship on a hill overlooking rolling acres of farmland. My father had it custom-built in 1963 and called it his castle. In my youth, I felt trapped there, similar to Rapunzel but without the pretty hair and Princess dress.
After pondering the good and bad times in the house, I traveled to the cemetery where my parents and sister were buried. I fastened a colorful bell instrument next to the headstone and tightened the beaded necklace and Texaco mug left from a previous visit. We had a brief chat, and they told me to get home before dark and clean my room. I began the drive home, wary of deadly buckets.
Funerals and memorial services are important traditions in close communities. The break gave me time to honor my friend and provided a much-needed escape from the noisy and negative distractions of Internet, news, and social media. Arriving safely at home, I reflected on the events of the day. Dorothy Hagerman wasn’t famous on earth, but I know she is welcomed and celebrated in a better place. Thanks for the memories, Mrs. Hagerman. Please say hi to the folks.