“He was a great man”, The minister said. “He will be missed.”
I looked at the open casket on the carport and saw my great uncle Wayne. A lump made its way to my throat and I begin to cry. I wiped my eyes, cleared my throat and took a step closer to Haven. I looked around at my family standing in the yard, gathered for this solemn occasion, Uncle Wayne’s funeral and burial. There were no hugs, no kisses. Our nation is going through a pandemic, so sympathy was communicated through smiles, sighs, and tearful eyes.
“I know current circumstances in our country has forced us to move our services outside, but I can’t help to think it’s for the best. The Lord blessed us with a beautiful day and here we are at Wayne and Kathleen's overlooking all of Wayne’s handiwork.”
I looked at the little brick house that Kathleen and Wayne made into a home. I looked at Wayne’s apple tree, a Bellflower, he had grafted and pruned himself. I saw his truck parked. There was his garden and his shed. His wood stacked from last winter. I looked at Anthony, his bereaved son. I looked at Kathleen, his widowed wife. My heart ached.
“Wayne was a godly man. He was a man of few words, but if he could tell you one thing right now, he’d tell you to be ready to meet our loving Savior.”
Wayne was a godly man. He was a fine man. Born and raised in the mountains. Selfless and caring. Dedicated and loyal. A loving father to Anthony. A loving husband, yes he loved his wife and cared for her when she became sick several years ago.
The sky was a vibrant blue, but the wind was strong. Kathleen was bundled in her coat and blanket. Whether Kathleen knew Wayne was gone or not, that I cannot say, but my heart ached for her. Anthony held her hand and a true friend comforted her. There were songs about Heaven and what glorious day it will be when were called to our eternal home. We were all surprised and joyed when we realized Kathleen could sing all the words to all the songs.
Reed told us just how thoughtful of a man Wayne was. On one of Wayne and Kathleen’s first dates, he invited Reed, a future nephew, to go with them to the fair. Wayne was a true man. A father to the fatherless, a kind brother, a true friend.
We told Wayne our final goodbyes. I wanted to hug and comfort the ones crying, but I couldn’t. I watched the most painful scene, a son saying his final goodbye and then closing the casket lid. Nephews and family members were pallbearers. They took Wayne to his final resting place, the family cemetery on the side of the mountain. The view overlooked the homeplace, Wayne and Kathleen’s home, Glasie and RL’s home, the home church, Mountain Dale, and the mountains.
I left the graveside and made my way down to the homeplace. I heard dad and Cousin Stacy talk about Mamaw and Papaw Hensley, apple trees and grapevines, home and loved ones. I looked up and saw the graveside and Anthony, I looked down and saw home, I looked behind me and saw the men, who once as children played in these fields and then I looked into my future, because I know what I want it to look like.
Today was sorrowful and sober. My heart aches for Anthony and Kathleen and family, but somehow, I feel comforted. Wayne raised a terrific and caring son. He loved and cared for his dear wife. He was kind and thoughtful. Hardworking and humble. And we are all better for knowing him. His story lives in us. His story lives in the hallways and dining room and back porch of that little house. It lives through his son. It lives through his nephews. And perhaps, it lives through his apple trees, his wood piles and his garden. His story lives through all of us.
This article is dedicated to my Great-Uncle Wayne Cooper
September 30,1939- April 6, 2020
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