Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I had a friend named Clearence. One day I noticed his name tag and told him that the uniform company had spelled his name incorrectly. He told me 'I'm black, we gotta do everything different from the white man.' That cracked me up for the rest of the day. He was a big, gentle man who always had a smile on his face and was one of the most giving people I know. He worked for my Dad for 28 years and after that, he worked for a pre-school helping little kids. I know they had to have loved him. I bet they fought over who was going to get to sit in his lap. He was just a very special man.
Clearence passed away recently and I went to his funeral the other day. I have never been to a funeral service for a colored person before but I didn't think it would be any different than any of the others I have attended. It was different...quite a bit.
I was one of about 6 white people in the entire facility and I must admit that I felt like the odd man out but it didn't bother me. I found a seat and waited for everything to begin and as soon as it did, I knew I was in for something special. The first difference I noticed was that the family was walked down the aisle to their seats while the entire congregation sang and a preacher preceded them by shouting out bible verses. I didn't recognize the song they were singing but everyone seemed to know it without having to look at a song sheet. Once the family was seated 7 different preachers went up onto the stage. I can't say that I've ever seen a funeral with so many clergy participating.
After a prayer and a beautiful solo there was a time for declarations. I had never heard of such a thing so I didn't know what to expect. What I heard just blew me away. There were representatives from 4-5 different churches and each person read a statement declaring their love and support of the widow. They stated that if she were to need anything, they and their congregation would be there for her. Co-workers of my friend also gave declarations on behalf of the business where he worked. I would say that all in all about 10 different people got up and read official declarations (stating the date, name of the business and the head of the committee) to show their support. I thought this was really cool. As they say...it takes a village and boy, did the village show their support.
Various members of the family were invited to speak about the deceased which was moving because I got a glimpse of my friend's home life in a way I had not experienced. And most of the speeches were humorous and uplifting. Many family members stressed to the widow that they were just a phone call away and to feel free to call on them. Most of them also described my friend's death as a good thing. They thought he was very lucky to get to go to heaven and that dying was just a break between the time that he passed and the time they'd get to see him again. The way they talked made me look forward to dying! Very inspirational.
All 7 of the preachers knew my friend personally and they were very good at stressing how much he had meant to them. Some had driven from places over an hour away just to show their support. A few of them did their versions of a church service but they were so passionate and the crowd was so vocal I really enjoyed it. All of the church services I have ever been to were sedate and stiff but this group was passionate! People in the audience were shouting out "amen" and "tell us preacher man!" and other comments while the sermon went on. Even the other preachers waiting their turn to talk were shouting out support. A noisy church service...how refreshing.
After all of the sermons were over and the songs were sung everyone had a chance to file past Clearence's casket and say good bye. It took about 30 minutes - there were so many people there to honor him. I'm sad he's gone because I'm selfish but I'm happy he had such a wonderful send off. I'd like to think that I could have a noisy send off, filled with laughs and happy memories, not sadness and crying. I don't think I need 7 preachers but I would be happy to know that the community would support those who survived me. I'm inspired to live a good life, filled with as many friends as Clearence had. I can only hope to have lived as good a life as him. Bye Clearence, I'll miss you.