Archive for January 15th, 2017

In Which Mama Florrie Says Good-Bye: Part Three

January 15, 2017

The service at Mt. Zion has finished, and we have caravaned to the graveyard at Bethel where Mama Florrie will be laid to rest next to her husband George.

When I say “laid to rest”, I mean just that.

There was a funeral tent with chairs for the family. There was also some equipment that I couldn’t identify. A lot of the photos that I have taken of grave sites are of a concrete slab with the name inset into the top. I suppose that slab is for a number of reasons: to prevent the grave from being disturbed, whether by man, animal, or natural causes. One of the rigs had a concrete slab, and I realized that her grave was going to be covered over today.

I had noticed a couple of fellows off in the background who were not dressed up, and were instead wearing workmen’s clothes. Did y’all know who they were?

At the funerals I’ve been to, there is a service, then everyone disperses, and the funeral workers finalize the ceremony after everyone leaves by lowering the coffin and covering it over.

There was a little service, then the pallbearers carried the casket from the hearse to a framework of pulleys and strapping, and rested her casket into the framework. The gears were activated and the casket lowered into the ground into a crypt.

That framework was removed, and the rigging with the concrete slab was wheeled over, and the slab was lowered into place. The top of the slab was protected with synthetic grass carpeting, and the gravediggers shoveled the dirt from the nearby mound, and packed it down around the edges of the slab. Then they broke open a bag of cement mix and put that around the edges, then they put more dirt on top of the cement.

I’ve only seen caskets lowered into the ground in the movies. Today was a very real finalization of her death.

Something else happened that I’ve never seen before. I don’t know if this is a custom in the black community in general or is part of the ceremony of this particular funeral home. Each and every floral offering was presented to the gathering, and the card was read to the group, and then the flowers were placed on her grave.

Poinsettias by Sugar

The minister invited everyone back to Mt. Zion for the repast.

I’ve never heard anyone say repast before. I’ve only seen it in a book. Rose invited me again to make sure I understood.

So we returned to the church, and had ham, fried chicken, greens, corn, macaroni and cheese, rice, cornbread, cake, and sweet potato pie. It is almost 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I headed home.


I’m driving along, talking to Sugar of the phone, and I approach the crossroad before I turn left to my Swamped! Plantation. Suddenly I see something on my right at the crossroads, up on the embankment, and I mumble out loud while wondering what I am seeing.

I shout into the phone, “It’s a Great Blue Heron! I’ve got to go!”, and the Great Blue looked at me and hopped off the embankment down into the ditch, and she headed away from me.

Instead of turning left to go home, I turn right to follow her, and she picked her way determinedly. I rolled down the window, and took her photo, again and again. I made a clicking sound to her, like I do when I call the animals, but she didn’t respond. She wasn’t afraid, even when another car swished by from the opposite direction.

She kept going.

I let her go.

Good-night, Mama Florrie. We’re thinking of you.