Volume 2, Number 2, Winter 1965
I have been asked to write about funerals of the past. When I was growing up, I didnt like to go to a funeral. I can remember the first one I went to when a near relative passed away. It was a cousin of mine, and my mother didnt tell me why we were going to my aunts house. Just as we arrived, two people brought out the casket and placed it in the wagon. The wagon bed was filled with straw to keep the casket from moving from the jolt of the rough road. The father and mother of the little girl, Della, were in the front wagon, and my aunt was crying. The team seemed to be excited and kept prancing. My mother and dad followed, and they were the only ones who went to the cemetery.
Even though I didnt like to go to a funeral, I was good to sit up with the sick because I could stay awake all night. I was not much help in administering the medicine, but I could always wake up the sleepers at the proper time.
One time I had been sitting up with a man who was very sick. I went home for the evening meal and then decided to go back to see him. He was a peculiar person, and I had heard him say he wanted to die with his boots on. He did just that. He had on a pair of rubber boots over heavy socks. He was laid to rest in a cemetery in the middle of a field where some of his folks were buried.
I knew one old couple that lived by themselves after having reared their family. They got helpless and couldnt get up on a regular bed, so they made their bed in one corner of the room near the fireplace. Some of their children brought their victuals to them, and they had a jug filled with something by their pallet. They passed away a few weeks after I visited them, and I helped dig their graves about two hundred yards from the house on a rocky hillside. The timber has claimed possession of the spot now and hid all trace of the graves.
The most pitiful case I ever witnessed was a man taken sick with pneumonia. They were very poor folks and the doctors wouldn't go to see him. His fever was very high. Someone suggested that a horse doctor might be able to reduce hi s fever. He came and examined him, and gave him spirits of niter. It must have been a horse dose. The mans fever left and so did his soul. I put a nickle on each eye to close them, and he was laid out on some rough boards and a white sheet was spread over him.
It was the custom in those days to sit up with the corpse all night. Most coffins were made of rough lumber by some cabinet-maker, and were hauled to the cemetery in a two-horse wagon. Relatives and friends would follow at a slow gait. Someone would speak or read a few verses from the Bible, and the service would end with the singing of some familiar song.
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