Friday, January 29, 2010

Sad Family Reunion

We're leaving my dad's now for the sleepy drive back to Dickinson. We got up in the wee hours this morning and drove to Tioga to see Dad and my stepmom as well as my sisters, visiting for a few days from OR and NE. It was nice to see them, of course, but we wish it had been under happier circumstances. You see, we were reunited today for the funeral of my uncle Curtis (my mom's brother).

He died last week, but the funeral wasn't until today in order to accommodate traveling by so many out-of-state relatives. Many were able to return, too; there were enough of us family members attending that we took up about a third of the pews in the church in McGregor. We gathered in the fellowship hall beforehand and shared condolences and did a little catching up after years of not having seen some relatives (e.g., "Ah, these must be your kids" or "Is this your husband?" or "And where do you live now?").

The funeral service itself featured three particularly touching elements.
  1. Three of Curtis' grandchildren who couldn't return for the funeral instead wrote letters to be read aloud by the pastoral assistant. They were all beautifully written and described meaningful memories of Grandpa Curtis.
  2. Two of Curtis' grandchildren joined their mom (Curtis' daughter-in-law) to perform special music. Kristian and Janna played "Ashokan Farewell" on the violin, accompanied by Mary Ellen on the piano. The siblings are great string players, and their mom is a skilled pianist, and the overall effect was both lovely to listen to and emotional.
  3. As an Army veteran (who witnessed the Nuremberg Trials--I had never known that!), Curtis was recognized with military funeral honors. His casket was draped in the flag of our country, which two uniformed members of a local honor guard ceremonially folded and presented to Curtis' son Wilmer. Before that, other members fired the traditional three-volley salute outside the church, followed by the playing of "Taps." Very respectful and moving.

After the funeral, the ladies of the church served a mid-afternoon lunch* in the fellowship hall, where we gathered to visit with relatives and others who live in the area, many of whom it had been years since we'd last seen. The chats were good but brief, and somehow all our relatives managed to rush out of the church before we realized that they were gone (yes, as is typical, our Moberg family was the last to leave) . . . so we got no photos of these aunts and uncles and cousins whom we so rarely see and whom we were so hoping to have pose for quick snapshots. I don't know what their hurry was, but it was sad to look around and see them all gone with no plans for the extended family to gather afterward over supper to visit some more and share memories of Curtis.

So our family drove back to Dad and Beverly's and visited amongst ourselves and had a nice supper of ham, scalloped potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, and cake for dessert. Before supper, Susan set the timer on our camera and got some good photos of our group. And after supper, it was time for us to pack up, say farewell, and head home (the girls have a piano recital in the morning). It was a brief visit, but we're grateful to live close enough to my family that we can make the drive there and back in a day if necessary. Curtis was a good man; may he rest in peace.

back row: Sandy, Beverly, Dad, and Cathy;
front row: Suzanna (holding my step-sister's dog, whom Dad and Beverly were dogsitting), Abigail, Hillary, Kevin, and Susan

* To my delight, it was the same kind of funeral lunch food that I grew up with: some sweet salads (involving a combination of Jell-O or pudding and fruit and Cool Whip), some savory salads (like potato salad and coleslaw), open-faced sandwiches on homemade buns (including brown buns spread with Cheez Whiz and topped with slices of pimiento-stuffed green olives), homemade pickles, and a separate table of cakes and bars for dessert. Unfortunately, the beverages were just as I remember them from my childhood, too: water colored yellow for lemonade and brown for coffee (i.e., both of them made too "weak" flavor-wise).

2 comments:

  1. I found both the music by Curtis' family and the military honors to be particularly moving parts of the service. We have a very sweet photo of Curtis holding Abigail when she was a baby -- he was feeding her a bottle and he had a HUGE grin on his face. That's how I'll remember him :-)

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  2. The funeral was moving to me as well. Memories of Curtis being at our home on the farm while we grew up always surface for me when I think of him. Curtis did many remodeling jobs in the house. I particularly remember him working in the kitchen and it being nothing more than a shell with plastic sheets in the doorways to keep the dust and dirt from floating throughout the rest of the house. After Kevin and I would get home from school our job was to pick up the trash that had been thrown out the kitchen window and put it into the back of the grain truck to be hauled away later. Curtis always had us doing something to help him out. I also remember that he liked his coffee with milk and sugar! Rest in peace Uncle Curtis...

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