Today, I attended Dan and Southern's funeral. It was at Friendly Baptist Church at 4:30 pm and the church was overflowing with supportive family and friends. Which was a beautiful testimony of how many lives have been touched by knowing these wonderful people.
When I woke up this morning, all I could think about was April, Anna, and Sandra who were going to bury their loved ones today. I thought about the times I had gone over to April's house and swam while Dan worked on their farm. I reminisced how EVERY single time I saw Dan he was wearing overalls which I assume is a necessary piece of clothing for every cowboy's wardrobe and that the last time I saw him and spoke to him was at another sad occasion, which was Heather Whitehead's viewing before her funeral in April 2009. The Dan I knew was a very loving father who would give his life to protect his family and others. I've been mentally kicking myself for not ever taking the time to meet Southern and realized that now I would never have the chance. I dreaded every hour that ticked by as 4 o'clock neared. While my heart was heavy, I tried not to show it because we had company (Hobby and Hannah) over today. I loved on Jonah as much as possible. When something like this happens to someone close to you, you can't help but hold your loved ones a little tighter and say "I love you" just a little more often. It's times these that truly remind you that life is so precious, time is so short, and that we're never guaranteed tomorrow.
When I arrived, they were directing traffic to parallel park along the driveways because they had run out of parking spaces. I was sent upstairs into the balcony because the lower portion of the church was full. As I looked down at the stage, I saw a single, beautiful mahogany colored casket covered with a yellow and white bouquet spray, a folded American flag, and a small black cowboy hat.
It appeared the family had decided to bury the two of them together. Had Dan and Southern been here to choose, they wouldn't have had it any other way. They had spent alot of time together, just Southern and Poppa, God had taken them from this world together and their bodies would rest in peace together until Christ's return to this earth. They had also walked through the gates of Heaven hand-in-hand to meet their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ together. You see, little 6 year old Southern decided on March 26th, 2010 that he needed Jesus and asked Him to become Lord and Savior of his life and he was baptized on March 28th, 2010. His Poppa had been a Christian for many, many years so there was no question where he would be when he left this earth.
As I watched my friend and her family come into the sanctuary, tears rolled down my cheeks as I grieved for them. They all, Sandra, April and Anna had a tissue tucked away in their hand preparing for many more tears to fall. One would think that after three days of tears that you wouldn't be able to cry anymore but as the funeral proceeded, more tears fell. The congregation was full of sniffles as others cried their own tears for this family.
Being from the country, it was only fitting that the family had decided to play Vince Gill's "Go Rest High On That Mountain" among other country songs throughout the service in memory of Dan and Southern and as a comfort to their loved ones left behind. A slide show with pictures of Dan and Southern by themselves and with family members was shown reminding us just how alive the two of them were and cataloged the memories and lives they had lived. It's kind of ironic how we try to document life as it's happening with pictures but you never see cameras at funerals because no one wants to remember such times of great grief.
The present pastor at Friendly spoke and told a story about the first time he saw Dan. He said he was there preaching in view of a call when all of the sudden he noticed this man in the back row with a beard down to his belly button and hair down to the middle of his back. He said that he thought to himself, "What kind of people are they letting into this church?" Well, little did he know that Dan's outward appearance was a facade. It wasn't until he actually met him that he realized that Dan's rugged appearance didn't define the man underneath. Dan was a cop for the Tyler Police Department for 22 years and his "hair" was part of his cover. He had nothing but praise for his brother in Christ and gave words of encouragement to the family. He also spoke about his experience baptizing Southern just a few months ago. He said "Southern, he was all boy because all he wanted to do was play and swim in the baptistry," which caused the congregation to laugh. He said that he never saw Southern without a smile on his face and that he loved is Poppa very much.
A fellow friend and co-worker spoke about his relationship with Dan, in the "real" world and in "God's" world. In the "real" world, Dan had his back. In "God's" world, Dan had realized that God was in the small things. That was Dan's life motto: God was in the small things. Not a truer word could have been spoken or treasured at this time in their lives. And who better to remind them and us about it than a friend of Dan.
The former pastor of Friendly spoke about being jealous of Dan because he could wear his overalls to church but his wife wouldn't let him. :) He also told a story about a letter in the obituary section from a family to a loved one in a small town newspaper. I'm paraphrasing but it was something like this.
The day you passed away our sun died in the sky. Even though our lives this past year have been very dark, God has turned on the headlights so we can see to go on. We love you and can't wait to see you again someday!
Love, the Family"
This had to be such great words of comfort because how do you go on living after something like this happens? I would just want to lay down and die because that would have to feel better than grieving and dealing with it. He also shared the gospel and how to become a Christian so we could have the hope of seeing our loved ones again in heaven like the Ross family would.
As the ceremony was drawing to a close, the police department presented Sandra with the folded American flag that had lain on their casket the entire service serenaded by a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" by a man playing the bagpipes. They then removed the small cowboy hat, which had to have been Southern's, the flowers and wheeled them out of the sanctuary. The family followed behind them one-by-one. My heart immediately flooded with grief knowing that the next several hours were going to be the most difficult. The finality of burying your loved one or loved ones is very hard to accept. Unfortunately, I didn't attend the graveside service which was in Van, TX. I think that the graveside service should be a private family-only ceremony so you can spend the last time with your loved ones and be able to fall apart if you need to without the whole world watching.
I cried most of the way home thinking about my friends and what they were about to face. It was also a time of reflection for me and what's really important when all the "fluff" of life goes away. I hope I never take my family and friends and the time I have with them for granted because we never know when it might their last.
Please continue to hold the Ross' in your arms. Turn on the headlights for them so they can see in the midst of the darkness. Show us how to show them love from you through us in the coming day, weeks, months, and years. Let them know you are ALWAYS with them through the good times and bad and that you're very much into the small things. I love You and I praise You!
In Jesus name I pray,
October 2013-Wit's End Ranch
4 years ago