I stood beside the coffin, tears streaming down my face. Not because I was upset or worried about Grandma, but because I loved her, and she loved me. Even though I was only one of her 48 grandchildren, besides the 54-great grandchildren, I was special to her. I knew she loved me. There was never a doubt that there was always enough love to reach around to all of us. Now as we were gathered in our shop where we were hosting the funeral, I stood beside her for the last time and just let the tears come. Daniel put his arms around me and shared in my grief. Surrounding us were the rest of the cousins along with my aunts and uncles who bade Grandma goodbye for the last time. As I touched her hands one last time I was again reminded that Grandma no longer needs me. She finally is where she has always wanted to go — safe with Jesus, forever free from any problems and sorrows. Just before closing the casket, her five sons and two daughters circled the coffin as they put their arms around each other and simply cried together. (On a side note, while not all cultures are comfortable with openly shedding tears as an adult, we feel it is an important part of processing grief, enabling us to be better able to face the changes we’ll be facing in the future, such as not having Grandma in our midst in the future.) After the casket was closed, the five brothers took it outside the shop where Grandma’s grandsons then took turns carrying it to the graveyard, which is only a short distance away.
We as a family, along with church people and friends, followed behind. Walking out the lane, we crossed the little gravel road and walked on back just inside the woods where the grandsons had hand-dug the grave. As we walked back to the path that leads to our little church cemetery, I felt myself relaxing. It was such a beautifully serene setting. The grassy path we walked on, the birds singing, and the sun gently shining with perfect 80-degree weather, I could just feel the assurance that God really is with us and will take care of us. We quietly watched as four of the grandsons gently lowered the coffin down into the grave. At that point, a German song was sung by friends standing by. Next, anyone was welcome to help cover the grave. When I saw some of my cousins taking their turn with the shovel, I felt a tugging at my heart. I wanted to, yet I didn’t. “Should I?” I asked myself. “Yes, I will. This is my way of releasing Grandma and simply accepting that God has chosen to take her home,” I decided. As I finished shoveling some dirt into the fresh grave, I handed the shovel to Daniel and Austin who were ready to take a turn. Carefully, Daniel helped 3-year-old Austin as they tenderly shoveled more dirt. Once more I wiped tears. It really felt excruciatingly difficult, yet there was a sense of preciousness in the midst of it all.
After more songs of heaven and a brief devotional, we all headed back to the shop where lunch had been prepared.
Five, 20-quart canners of noodles had been made with Grandma’s noodle recipe she always used and had made countless times for funerals as well as guests who came to her house. Along with the noodles, there were 500 ham and cheese sandwiches, 15 gallons of potato salad, 18 gallons of glazed fruit, and 50 dozen cupcakes.
As I sat down to eat, I felt a sense of relief to have the funeral past, but then it didn’t seem right to just go on with life without Grandma. Finally, I told God, “You just direct my thoughts. I just don’t know how to feel.” And you know, He really did answer that cry. I sensed his presence and knew that all will be well. By midafternoon, people started going home and by suppertime, there were only some out-of-state relatives and family left. A bunch of the guys chipped in and helped stack chairs and backless benches that had been used for the service. Next, they helped Daniel put the shop equipment back where it belonged. The equipment and work tables had all been moved, since it was the working area that had to be emptied for the viewings and funeral.
By this time the children, especially Rayni and Jesse, were extremely ready for just a normal life. Rayni clung to me a lot the the day of the funeral as well as the two days before, when we had visitations in the afternoon and evenings. I was glad to hold her, as well as the two babies, yet I was just so ready to have them go back to their normal routine once more. By the next day, both of my arms were sore from holding them so much of the time. Others did well in chipping in and helping with the children, but then sometimes they simply need Mama.
This week I would like to share our favorite cupcake recipe that was used for some of the cupcakes at the funeral. There was a wide variety of homemade cupcakes to choose, all of which were made by friends from Indiana. We were richly blessed by all the food that was brought in from various communities for both evenings of the viewing and lunch for the funeral.
I also want to thank all of you for your prayers and support for our family during these challenging days.
CREAM FILLED CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
1 chocolate cake mix (I prefer making from scratch)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 6-ounce package chocolate chips
Mix cake according to instructions. Fill 24 paper-lined cupcake pans 2/3 full. Mix filling ingredients and put a tablespoon filling on top of each cupcake. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool, then frost with chocolate or caramel frosting if desired. Yield: 24 cupcakes.