It was a tiny church. It might have the capacity to hold fifty people and a weekly attendance of nine. The church organ was an old home organ from someones living room. The air conditioning consisted of a box fan and an open door. When I first pulled up to it with the deceased in the back of the hearse, I wasn't even sure if it was a church at all. It looked like an old tool and die shop that had closed down years ago. The cement that was the parking spaces and sidewalk was overgrown with weeds in the many cracks. I'm convinced that a stone path would have been smoother to roll the cart carrying the casket that contained the woman that was born in 1911. She made it to one hundred years of age.
A while back, I wrote of a woman that had lived to be one hundred and three. Both of these women shared a love of a small town twenty miles from any Kmart or other modern store. Beulah had attended the funeral of her friend that had lived to 103. I remember her well. She was a spunky one that wanted no help with the seven steps that led up to the church where her friends service was held. That church was a quarter mile down the lane from where we stood today.
Both women were some of the original residents in this small town with one general store and a post office that closed down years ago. Many believe the demise of this town has been the fact that there is no pub. For what is a town without a pub? Beulah was a founding member of the historical farm museum for the county. She saw many of children show there pet rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens, etc... in the 4H fair each year. While many areas struggle to keep museums and fairs going, this little hamlet has been the thriving heart of the farming community in our area for years. They recently opened a new Nature Center, which is where my niece got married back in June.
We lined cars up two deep on one side of the road and then another line on the other. I think we must have had about a hundred and fifty family and friends squeezed in there and spilling out on to the street. There was no microphone and the pastor had to speak loudly so that everyone could hear. While it is always stressful to try and make it all work right with no flaws, It is especially joyful to know that there are so many people that love her.
I always like to wonder what life must have been like for that hundred years. To go from horses and buggies to cars. To see the telephone and electricity move in to town and eventually high-speed internet. Beulah saw it all. Shared it all with her family of seven children and many, many grandchildren, and friends.
We should all be so lucky.
Some of us live our lives surrounded by millions of people. Others like Beulah, live out in the country with just a few people around. Whether you live for a hundred years like she did or if your life is much shorter, often we feel lost and lonely. The days can be so long when left to your own thoughts. The odd things about the often long and lonely path of life, is that when you get to the end of it and look back, you'll find that it was neither of these. Stranger still, by and large, no matter where it's taken you, it's memories will be so sweet, they will usher forth the happiest of tears.
Don't wait for the end, to look back with fond memories. Enjoy the present for the gift that it is.