Saturday, October 3, 2015


My next door neighbor, Elizabeth, was the first real friend I made after moving to Georgia.  It struck hard and almost unbelievable when she was diagnosed with cancer this past summer.  And then when treatment went poorly and she came home with hospice care, we all thought there would be a few months to visit and let her get things in order.  While her death is not a shock, that it happened now is very much a surprise.

I know that she was in pain.  And I'm happy that she's not suffering through the special kind of hell that lung diseases so often offer to those unfortunate enough to contract one.  She's in a better place, happy and whole and reunited with her loved ones that had gone before.  It's the people left behind that are sad and lonely and walking around a little lost without her presence.  Although... her funeral is going down as the most memorable one I've ever attended.


Elizabeth and Danny, her husband, were never followers of any particular religious doctrine so as it became clear that planning this funeral was imminently needful, they asked the Chaplain from her hospice provider to lead a simple graveside service.  I'm guessing the format was Baptist with a few prayers, a few scripture selections and some short remarks about his impressions from visiting with her at the beginning of her time with hospice.

In north Georgia it's been raining for most of the past two weeks.  The red clay soil is completely saturated.  Crossing any low spots in the lawn are like walking on a soggy sponge.  And it's been raining all day today.  Mostly just an annoying drizzle, but with periods of what you'd have to call real rain.  What I'm trying to get across is the ground is wet.  And soft.  Very wet and very soft.

So picture this:  A smallish group of mourners huddled under a couple of those blue tents that funeral homes set up to protect people from the elements during those graveside moments.  The rolling countryside around the cemetery is lush and green.  The only background noise is the evening song of a few birds gathered in the nearby trees.  It's beautiful and peaceful and about as close to heaven as I can imagine.

The Chaplain is reading a passage from the beginning of Psalm 103...  He's half way through verse 4. (Please click the link and read that far before continuing on here.)  Almost on cue, one side of the grave collapses and the coffin slides partly off that scaffolding-like thing that holds it elevated over the vault and.. pit.

Almost like she's telling him "I ain't goin' yet, dammit!" it's headed right for the Chaplain.  His eyes were about as wide as saucers and there's a collective gasp of disbelief!  And the men from the grave digging company and from the funeral home leap in and are belly stretched over the astro-turf covered mound of dirt trying to keep it from sliding all the way off while the Chaplain concludes much more quickly than I think he'd planned.  And we are all sent to wait safely by the hearse while the workers got the grave walls reinforced and everything back in order before the coffin could be lowered.

Not something a grieving family needs, or wants, to see.  Terrible.  Stressful.  Surreal.  Those would all be good words for the moment.  But pretty soon the giggles set in... and we were all crying for a different reason!  Her daughter, Kari, finally choked out "I knew Momma would just have to get the last word in!!"

After that kind of ending, Elizabeth, who could ever forget you?

Rest in peace, my sweet friend... you were kind, generous, and funny in life.  And also in death!  I love you and I will miss you so very much!!

Elizabeth Karen Bryant Robinson
June 30, 1964 - October 1, 2015

At Kennestone Hospital shortly after being diagnosed with multiple
cancers in June 2015.  You didn't like that Kari snapped your picture... but I'm
sure glad she did!  This is how I'm going to remember you!!

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