Monday, June 1, 2009

Graveyards

Memorial Day came and went, and a few days after we had this year's first funeral for our church. The death was not a particularly tragic one -- he'd had a stroke years earlier and gradually had become less and less well.
Graveside services were held at the Lostine cemetery, and a ton of people came out for it. I did not participate as we already had two pastors and the VFW participating. This was the first time I'd attended a veteran's funeral. Half of the VFW members were walking aided by canes, but they managed nicely. They fired a gun salute at the very end which definitely disconcerted me -- we'd started the service with a proclamation that "we are not mourning a death, we are celebrating a resurrection" and for me, gunshots are death -- not the hunting in the woods with friends -- not the comaraderie and discipline of military training -- to me they sound like gangs, urban violence, murder and sirens screaming a minute later. But disconcerted or no, I cried just like everyone else when they handed his widow a folded American flag.
And around here church ladies take great pride in "serving funeral dinners." This was also my first one of these. It's just a post-funeral reception, really, and the church basement gets decorated with photos and memorabilia, and everyone eats together. It was great except we had about four times more dessert than we had dessert-eaters. But the family thanked us profusely.

Another related story:
A few weeks back some of us Presbyterian Women went out to Tutuilla Indian Reservation, and as part of the day's PW program we heard a history of the church, one of the oldest Protestant mission outposts in Eastern Oregon. Here are just a few photos from their graveyard. I've seen plastic flowers as gifts in graveyards before, but I've never seen as many and varied gifts as these folks had placed on the graves. The whole graveyard is an interesting melding of a very European Christianity and the American Indian traditions.



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